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    Taveta sub-county will reclaim and rehabilitate 18,000 acres of waterlogged land for both large and medium-scale farming in Mboghoni ward. This will be used to to build Taita Taveta County's food security capacity and sustainable economic development.   

    According to a statement from the county, unlike most areas in TaitaTaveta experiencing drought, excess waters caused by waterlogging and flush floods are hindering farmers from exploring Mboghoni's agricultural production potential. Large-scale intervention is necessary to help remove the excess water opening up more land for agricultural production. 

    “We have no option but to ensure farmers get enough crop yield to feed the entire county and our neighbours if possible. I have directed the department in charge to liaise with relevant stakeholders to ensure we get the machinery needed for opening up the acreage as you’ve requested. We will work around the clock to address the plight of farmers, the ravaging effects of climate change can only be reversed if farmers embark on serious food production,” said Taita Taveta Governor Andrew Mwadime while on an assessment tour in the area.   

    Related News: Farmers advised planting drought-resistant, early-maturing crops as long rains to be insufficient

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    In the company of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation Executive Committee Member Erickson Kyongo and the area Member of County Assembly Khalifa Taraya, the governor reiterated the need for collaboration between his office and the legislative arm in ensuring adequate funds are set aside to open up canals, empower farmers in a bid to shield them from exploitation as well as creating a conducive environment for investors in the county. 

    CECM Kyongo added, “Opening up of farms will also create employment for youths and women in Taveta sub-county. This means those in need of fees and other financial support will not depend on the government but have enough cash to support themselves.” 

    Kyongo said his office will source for more partners to help open a rice milling factory in the area as cases of exploitation continue to surge leading to losses.

    Governor Mwadime also led the issuance of pasture seeds in Mbololo ward, Voi sub-county where over 1,500 farmers are set to benefit from the Livestock Feed Commercialization Project (LFCP). 

    The Food Agriculture Organisation – Kenya funded project through the support of Mastercard Foundation is being undertaken in collaboration with Taita Taveta County Government and aims at supporting livestock farmers to commercialize pasture production. 

    Related News: Water harvesting enables savvy farmers sell produce at peak prices

    58 farmer groups will receive 14 Tons of Pasture seeds which includes 10.4 tons of lowland pasture seeds (African Fox tail, Maasai Love grass, cowpeas, and nutrified) and 3.6 tons of highland pasture seeds (Sugar-graze and Boma Rhodes) enough to plant 2,832 acres.   

    Under the LFCPP project, FAO – Kenya will support pasture production commercialization through coaching and mentoring of viable business cases in the county. 

    FAO – Kenya in partnership with SNV Netherlands will also support the county to develop the County Livestock Feed Strategy that will create the roadmap for investment in the Livestock Feed value chain.

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    Fr GhanXsAA2UTVKakuzi Plc is set to provide free maturity testing services for local smallholder avocado farmers following the opening of the new avocado harvesting season. 

    The Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), through its Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD), has announced that the 2023 avocado harvesting season will officially begin on March 24th, 2023, and has provided technical details relating to maturity parameters. 

    The farmers will receive detailed pre-harvest reports on the quality and maturity of their fruit samples.

    Taking advantage of the smallholder farmers’ free maturity testing services will help minimise post-harvest losses while enhancing the farmers’ technical skills.

    Related News: Crops Directorate greenlights 2023 avocado harvest season, issues handling guidelines

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    The HCD Public notice noted that the exact stage of maturity during the growth and development of avocado fruit is difficult to determine because the fruit does not exhibit obvious characteristics that could suggest the optimum state of “readiness for harvest”. Further, Avocado fruit maturity will not improve after picking, so it is essential that the fruit reaches the required marketing preferences before harvest. Harvesting immature avocado fruit negatively affects fruit quality, resulting in a grassy aftertaste, watery or rubbery texture, and lack of flavour.

    According to the agency, avocados should be harvested when they reach maturity, which is determined by a minimum dry matter standard of 24%. 

    As part of its corporate support initiatives to foster the local and export market delivery of quality avocado fruits, Kakuzi has committed to providing the preharvest maturity testing services at its FSSC 22000 Food Safety Management Systems certified Kakuzi Avocado Processing and Packhouse facility located near Makuyu town, along the Nairobi-Nyeri highway. 

    Kakuzi Plc Managing Director Mr. Christopher Flowers said the laboratory-based testing services will be provided to smallholder farmers as part of a national quality assurance commitment. Even with the harvest season opening, Kakuzi, Mr. Flowers said, will only commence harvesting activities for its Hass Avocado variety fruit crop in late May.

    Related News: Wastage & soaring cooking oil prices point farmers to avocado value addition

    “Kakuzi is pleased that the regulator has provided the directions for strict adherence to maturity parameters. We are at hand to provide free maturity testing services for smallholder farmers at our GlobalGAP-certified Makuyu Packhouse laboratories,” Mr Flowers said. 

    He added, “We believe the free maturity testing services will guide local farmers wishing to harvest their avocado fruit crops. As avocado farmers, big or small, we must appreciate that every fruit we deliver to the local or export market carries the Kenya quality reputation, and that’s got to be our enduring objective; giving our customers a fruit they want more of while sustaining the Kenyan market and brand positioning.”

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    By George Munene

    On 15th February 2023, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and Advanta Seeds International signed a licensing agreement that provides Advanta Seeds non-exclusive rights to producing and distributing certified seeds of the in-demand rice variety, IR 05N221, named 'Komboka', in Kenya, through their production and distribution network.

    Komboka yields 6.5 to 7 tons per ha, double what farmers get from presently available rice varieties, as well as being drought-resistant.

    Advanta will obtain basic seeds of the IR 05N221 variety from KALRO and subsequently produce and market certified seed of the variety starting from the 2023 rice growing season in Kenya.

    This move of venturing into up-scaling of rice seed in the region has been because of a huge demand for seed for the variety IR 05N221 in Kenya following IRRI-supported awareness creation activities over the last two years. 

    Related News: KALRO launches drought resistant rice, doubles basmati yield

    Related News: Newly introduced Komboka rice gives farmers bumper harvests

    Advanta, a subsidiary of Indian multinational UPL Limited, is a global leader in the production and marketing of high-quality seeds for various field crops including rice. In East and Southern Africa, the company has production fields and facilities in a number of countries including Kenya. 

    The International Rice Research Institute facilitated discussions between Advanta and KALRO to come to an agreement on objectives, roles, responsibilities, and incentives pertaining to each of the two institutions. 

    In many African countries, rice consumption outstrips production, which leads to huge imports to meet local demand. 

    A key challenge affecting the rice sector in the region today is the lack of efficient seed production and delivery systems that would encourage wider use of quality seed of improved, climate resilient, and high-yielding varieties. Developing a competitive formal seed sector will ensure the timely availability of quality seeds of new varieties at affordable prices, particularly to smallholder farmers. Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP) are critical for the seed sector in developing countries because, unlike the private sector, investment by public institutions in productivity-enhancing agricultural systems is low because of their limited capacity and other priorities.

    According to The African Seed Access Index (TASAI) report for 2022 the number of merchants registered to be engaged in the production, processing, and/ or marketing of certified seed or planting material of any crop in Kenya stood at 185. However, there were only a few of these companies engaging in rice seed. The licensing agreement between KALRO and Advanta is expected to accelerate the scaling and reach of International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) - CGIAR innovations and technologies to benefit farmers, particularly smallholders.

    Related News: How to control rice blast disease causing up to100% damage

    "Kenya currently imports about 89% of rice it consumes and the Kenyan government is trying hard to minimize this gap through various value chain interventions. This includes expanding the area under rice production and providing the needed policy support. Some of the existing irrigation schemes in western Kenya are undergoing a significant expansion which is primarily meant for rice production. Overall, the government is aiming to expand the rice area in Kenya by about 20,000 ha. This kind of PPP is an urgent need not only to meet the current demand for the quality seeds of improved rice varieties but also to cater to the future quality seed demand”, according to Dr. Ajay Panchbhai, IRRI’s Regional Breeding Lead for Africa.

    Similar agreements were executed by KALRO in the recent past with the private sector enterprises and farmers’ cooperatives such as Magos Farm Enterprises and Mwea Rice Growers Multipurpose Co-operative Society (MRGM) to accelerate quality seed production and dissemination of new high-yielding rice varieties. IRRI is in the process of further strengthening MRGM’s and KALRO’s infrastructure capacity to modernize and accelerate the processing of certified seeds to cater to the increasing demand. These partnerships in the rice seed chain in Kenya, which are being supported by BMGF-funded AGGRi and OneCGIAR Seed Equal initiatives, are paving the way to increasing rice production through strengthening the rice seed systems, ultimately contributing to the food, income, and nutrition security in Africa.

    Source: International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)

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