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Professional farming, paying well: Kerio Valley Development Authority


There is a green revolution sweeping the Kenya agricultural sector. This wind of change is gradually revitalizing the sector. It is not agriculture as usual. The industry is highly paying
reclaiming its niche as the backbone of the country's economy.

Crystal clear farmers can see when they farm in a professional manner, farming pays well. This is the lesson that Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) is trying to diffuse to farmers in Uasin Gishu, Baringo, Turkana, West Pokot, Samburu, Elgeyo Marakwet and Nakuru counties.

KVDA has established five; 16 × 30m greenhouses at Eldoret city for tomato production. These greenhouses were bought from Hortipro at a cost of Ksh. 900, 000 each.

The agency's Managing Director; Dr. David Kimosop said this project targets diffusing specialized farming to farmers, as well generating income for sustainability of KVDA's mandate.

"Most farmers in Uasin Gishu depend on maize and beans that are rain-fed. We want to change this by showing farmers that using greenhouses, one can plant anytime, plants that mature within a short time and generate more income than maize and beans", said Kimosop.

Besides Uasin Gishu, other regions under KVDA's term of office are populated with pastoralists whose livestock depends on rain for pasture and water. With a high infiltration of arms; scarcity of these resources has often led to severe conflicts and the initiative by KVDA will greatly contribute to the mitigation of the resource spawn conflicts.

Dr. Kimosop said, "We put our first greenhouse under tomato plantation in October 19th, 2013. By 13th January, 2014; we had our first harvest and we were able to recover our initial investment for thegreenhouse in the first season".

According to Barbanas Kiplimo, the Project Manager, one tomato crop yields 15 kilos per season. 4-5 tomatoes make a kilo which translates to 60 fruits per plant. Each greenhouse carries 2000 tomato plants; with a kilo going for Ksh. 40, KVDA gets Ksh. 600 per plant and Ksh. 1.2m every season from each greenhouse.

"Harvesting is done twice a week. Tomatoes have seven economical months. You plant and start harvesting from the third to seventh month", added Barbanas.

Sam Kona; the Chairman Kerio Valley Development Authority said that the government agency established in 1979 by an Act of Parliament Cap 441 of the Laws of Kenya aspires
to give Kenyans a business chance through the greenhouse project. "We are teaching our people utilizing agriculture for income generation, which in turns creates employment resulting to improved quality of lives", adjoined Kona.

Further the chair said, "KVDA aspires to be a resource for farmers in the 6 counties it has presence in. We want farmers to look up to us for technological innovations and information. Kerio Valley Development Authority, supplies farmers with water for irrigation and livestock; is engaged in conservation of water catchments to save people in the lower riparian from water shortages and through this we are relieving conflicts in many watering points at the same time addressing food insecurity".

Moses Khaemba; Sales and Marketing Manager Hortipro told Hortfresh Journal, "Our greenhouses are done single or multiphase, en suite with PVC gutters for rainwater harvesting. On the side, they have insect proof net, which economizes pesticides use. Additionally, they are fitted with roll up mechanism for temperature regulation; use galvanized steel; have good gutter height for maximum space usage and allows crop support. Drips spaced 25cm, 30cm and 45 cm and any customized drip spacing
available. More our greenhouses have lockable doors and entry porch which can be used as a store, it is where we place the entrance sanitization pad".

On 14th March 2014, Bungoma County Governor, Ken Lusaka will launch 52 greenhouses built by Hortipro. 45 of these greenhouses are for every ward and the other seven for special places such as Mambanga Agricultural Training Centre where the launch will be held.

Barbanas ascertained that Hortipro's work is standardized and construction schedule observed. "Hortipro started by soil analysis. They did diagnosis on nematodes, fuserium, bacterial wilt among others, after which soil fumigation was done. This is the reason for this
quality harvest. To maintain this soil performance, after two years we will crop rotate the tomatoes with other high value crop not in the same family with tomatoes", he added.

This pilot project has borne a working prototype that KVDA ishopeful to replicate in Lodwar and Baringo counties. "We have asked Hortipro to build other three 16× 30m greenhouses in Lodwar, a part from this, we are partnering with the County Government of Baringo
for similar initiatives", the Managing Director affirmed. KVDA is working with other government agencies to market produce, plus looking for ways to add value to tomatoes.

Kerio Valley Development Authority started with hydro-electric power generation; establishing Turkwel hydro-power project in 1991. After gaining cognizance of the
enormous resources around it for farming, the agency ventured into farming promotion.
Apart from horticulture and hydro power generation; KVDA has these other projects: honey
production; bee hive production; processing maize seed; catchment conservancy and food security; Wei Wei integrated multipurpose project and fisheries development.

Dr. Kimosop said together with other stakeholders, KVDA has in the past championed planting of fruit trees. Today, the authority is aiming to plant 5 million mango trees in the
next three years which will generate Ksh. 400 billion in four years.

"Resources within KVDA area are not yet fully utilized. Thus, we have wrought an Integrated Regional Development Master Plan 2013-2033 to steer Kerio Valley Development Authority region development to higher heights. In addition, we are supporting devolution by empowering farmers at the grassroots", concluded Kimosop.

Source:David Kimani-Hortfresh Journal

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