By George Munene
The Kenya Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP) will work on a collaborative program focused on sensitizing farmers on the benefits of growing improved disease-resistant macadamia varieties that yield up to seven times what farmers currently earn with traditional macadamia. This will make new macadamia varieties more readily known and accessible to farmers.
The farmer training effort will be conducted in 12 counties and also cover appropriate grafting methods for macadamia and passion seedlings. Farmers will further learn how they can contain diseases and pests on their crops without falling afoul of European Union and other international markets’ efficacy standards.
According to a recent IPSOS Baseline survey done on behalf of the European Union (EU) funded MARKUP Kenya program, weak extension services were revealed to be one of the major barriers to food safety in Kenya.
Over 98 per cent of Kenya’s macadamia output is exported and the nut’s global demand is projected to have a 6.8 per cent compound annual growth rate between 2021-2026.
It is therefore important that farmers grow modern and improved macadamia trees that will earn them more with less expenditure in terms of both land and inputs.
Such varieties propagated by KALRO include; the MRG20 which thrives in sunflower and cotton-growing regions. KGG15 and EMB1 do well in coffee-growing high rainfall areas. KMB3–a hybrid variety that thrives in both coffee and tea growing regions.
They start yielding at three years and a farmer can harvest between 50-75 kilograms at an optimum age of 15 years. Conversely, indigenous varieties start fruiting at 10 years and can only yield a maximum of 10 kilograms annually.
There is also a need for farmers to observe stringent quality and phytosanitary standards. In a highly competitive market, adherence to best practices will ensure Kenya has a competitive edge ensuring the bulk of our macadamia adheres to the set quality standard securing the country’s market positioning.
This is done by sourcing clean planting material from reputable vendors which will guarantee that harvest will not fail and that farmers benefit from their investment.
The rootstock of improved macadamia has a tolerance to soil-borne fungal diseases such as phytophthora root rot. They contain less sugar content and a high oil content making them unattractive to the macadamia sting bug.
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MARKUP Kenya is working on upscaling extension services to facilitate knowledge right at the farms. Working with KALRO, private and public sector partners they will also promote clean passion fruits and groundnut planting materials to farmers.