A group of farmers in Sawla
A group of farmers

Small-scale farmers in Kenya’s coastal region who have in the recent past grappled with climatic shocks and fall armyworm invasion have benefited from a United Nations-funded program to help them cope with the two challenges.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has provided improved seeds and appropriate technologies to help farmers in the coastal region cope with natural calamities like floods and pests.

FAO is assisting 114,040 coastal residents displaced by floods that swept low-lying plains during long rain season in April-May, 2018, with certified seeds and farm implements to enable them to produce sufficient food.

Despite predictions of normal-to-below-normal rainfall in April last year, parts of Kenya, including the coastal region, witnessed rains well in excess of seasonal norms, with many parts of the country receiving more rains in the first three months.

The high rains led to unprecedented flooding, causing deaths, displacement of families and disruption of agricultural and livestock production activities.

Today, the majority of the beneficiaries are back on their farms and adopted the growing of certified seeds that they were given as a donation to help resettle in their farms.

The farmers received certified seeds of maize, green gram, cowpeas, kales, rice, okra, water melon and amaranth, capsicum and brinjals. They were also given hoes, digging fork and pangas.

“I am happy that besides offering us support after (our) losing all our seeds to the floods, the UN agency has introduced me to the planting of certified seeds,” said 67-year-old Salim Mugawa, a farmer from Tana River County.

Mugawa said that all his farming life, he has never planted certified seeds as he has relied on recycled seeds that he keeps after every harvest.

“The flooding is like a blessing in disguise as the seeds we were given were of high value as we have realized good harvest,” Mugawa said.

He said the certified seeds, especially the maize seed, have given him good yields as they grow more cobs than the traditional variety.

Mugawa, who plants maize, cowpea and kale, earned much last season from the harvest and sale of green maize.

“We are proud of FAO support and I will be planting certified seeds henceforth for better returns,” Mugawa said.

The support that is now associated with changes in farming in the region started with a request from the government to the UN agency to consider assisting farmers whose farms were flooded and farming tools lost.

“We got the request and sent a team of experts to go and assess the situation and asked farmers their preferred seeds to help them re-emerge from the problem,” said FAO Kenya representative Gabriel Rugalema.

“We spent U.S. dollars 230,000 for buying seeds and farm tools that benefited 11,898 households, translating to 68,367 people in both Tana River and Kilifi, excluding logistical support to distributions in the counties,” he said.

Hiribae Dulu, a farmer in Idzowe in Ganze, Tana River County, said the seeds are faster to mature and perform well.

As opposed to traditional maize seeds that take three months to mature, the certified seeds take two months for harvesting, he said.

“The seeds were brought at the right time and has enabled us realize unexpected bumper harvest that is yet to be seen in this region,” Dulu said.

“The variety amazed us as they are bigger and their cobs are three or two per plant, meaning the harvest is overwhelming and rewarding,” he said. Enditem

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