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Cotton Farming: Why President Uhuru Wants Kenya to grow GMO Cotton

cotton

President Uhuru Kenyatta has asked technocrats to look at the possibility of Kenyans growing genetically modified BT cotton.

If Implemented, Kenya will become the first in East Africa to grow GMOs in open fields, and fourth in Africa after South Africa, Burkina Faso and Sudan.

The launch for commercialization is expected in January 2019, while farmers are likely to plant their first BT cotton seeds in March.

The development follows the recent approval for national performance trials for BT cotton by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

Already, the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (Kalro) has planted the first BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton in open fields for environmental testing in Kibos, Kisumu in the west of the country.

“We expect that in the next seven months we shall have sufficient data from the field trials for scrutiny by the various government agencies including Nema,” said the director of Horticulture Research Institute at Kalro Dr Charles Waturu.

The president instructed the ministries of Health, Agriculture and Trade, Industry and Cooperatives to come up with a quick mechanism for the revival of cotton production, including the possibility of farming BT cotton as part of measures to restore the dwindling sector.

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Agriculture Task Force to Look Into Cotton Farming

At the same time Uhuru directed that a second taskforce be constituted to address woes facing maize farmers and find a lasting solution to the issue.

The taskforce will be led by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago.

President Kenyatta made the announcement during Mashujaa Day celebrations at Bukhungu Stadium in Kakamega town.

This directive comes in the wake of protests by maize farmers who have not been paid for deliveries to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).

The board, which manages the strategic reserves of the staple food, ran out of cash it was allocated because it paid brokers who supplied it with cheap maize from Uganda at the expense of Kenyan farmers.

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The disillusioned farmers are still holding on to about 500,000 bags of last season’s crop estimated to be worth Sh1.6 billion while NCPB owes them Sh3.5 billion for maize it purchased from them for the strategic reserve.

While speaking in Kakamega, President Kenyatta warned that stern action would be taken against NCPB officials who engage in corrupt practices involving cartels.

He also warned that stern action would be taken against corrupt officials who authorised the payments to brokers, leaving farmers in unnecessary suffering after toiling to earn a livelihood from the cash crop.

 

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Advantages and disadvantages of Mixed farming in Kenya

Mixed farming is when a farmer decides to combine two or more agricultural activities on the same farm. A typical case of mixed farming is the combination of crop cultivation with dairy farming or in more general terms, crop cultivation with livestock farming. Mixed farming may be treated as a special case of diversified farming. This particular combination of enterprises, support each other and add to the farmer’s profitability.

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Advantages of Mixed farming:

  • It enhances the productivity of the farm land
  • It increases the per capita profitability
  • Both farmings compliment each other.
  • Farmers can keep their fields under continuous production.
  • It enhances the productivity of the farmer also.
  • Reduce dependency on external inputs and costs. In the example of mixed cropping of animal husbandry and crop farming the crops and animals components can complement and support each other. For example, the crop farming gives feed to the animals, and in turn, the animals can supply fertilizers to the crop. So this reduces the need and cost of fertilization and animal feed. The animals (such as cattle and sheep) can also perform weeding which reduces the need for herbicides. CIPAV system from Columbia, for example, incorporates fuel generation where crop wastes are fed into a biodigester which then generates fuel for use in the farm (for running farm machinery and equipment). This reduces external fuel dependency.
  • A simpler mixed farming system is aquaponics where the fish wastes are useful as fertilizers for the vegetables (like lettuce) and the lettuce, in turn, clean the water for the fish. Another similar setup and benefit is rice-fish farming in northeast Thailand and China where fish (like tilapia and carp) are bred in the rice field waters.
  • Because the mixed farming system recycles much of its wastes, this reduce external inputs (like fertilizers and pesticides). This in turn reduce greenhouse gases emissions, whether directly or indirectly because less fossil fuels are required in the production and distribution of fertilizers and pesticides due to lower demand.
  • It stabilizes the income of the farmer because the farmer is not depending solely on one activity. Should one activity fail (due to low price or pests or diseases), the farmer can still get income from the other activities.
  • Increased biodiversity means less risks of pests and diseases outbreak in the farm. Outbreak usually occurs in monoculture where there is uniformity of species especially over a large area.

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Disadvantages of mixed farming:

  • Because a mixed farming system consists of multiple activities running simultaneously, this makes the control, monitoring, and maintenance of the farm more difficult than a monoculture where only a single activity is run.
  • Some times one activity may hinder the other activity.
  • For the same reason above, the farmer needs to be knowledgeable (or an expert) in more than one area as compared to a monoculture farmer. A mixed farming farmer is running several activities at once, there may be management problem.

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