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Farmers hurt with Crop and Livestock diseases after heavy rains

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenyan crop and livestock farmers are grappling with a myriad of diseases resulting from adverse weather conditions brought about by the rains.

It has been raining in the East African nation since March and Kenya’s Meteorological Department has said the heavy rains would go on until next month, adding more pressure on farming.

Crop farmers are grappling mainly with blight and bacterial wilt.

The diseases have attacked coffee, tomatoes, onions and potatoes pushing up the cost of production for farmers.

Even as they save on irrigation water, the farmers have to invest heavily in pesticides to fight the diseases and others to avoid losses.

The two diseases are a huge threat to the crops because they lead to 100 percent loss if not checked.

"I have grown tomatoes on half-acre.

"Last month when it was raining heavily, the crop was attacked by blight and I had to spray consistently to save it because it had started fruiting,"

Joseph Gitau, who grows the crop in Juja, told Xinhua recently.

The farmer who works as an auditor in Nairobi said eradicating the crop became difficult because the rain washed away the chemicals.

"I am not going to harvest much this season because the rains destroyed some fruits and some flowers also aborted.

"This is a bad season for me," he said.

The blight has attacked coffee in main production areas in central Kenya threatening the cash crop that is exported in markets in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Farmers in Nyeri, Murang’a and Kiambu are currently grappling with the disease, which they say is attacking their crop for the first time in years.

"It is the first time I am seeing it since I started farming coffee 10 years ago.

"We have been asked to use certain chemicals to save the crop," said Moses Karanja, a coffee farmer.

The disease, according to farmers in central Kenya, was prevalent in other areas including Nakuru and Trans Nzoia.

However, excess rainfall in the area led to its emergence.

"This is new disease in the region.

"I am calling it new because it is the first time it is being heard of in Nyeri," said Karanja.

Caroline Wandia, an agronomist in Nyeri, said bacterial blight in coffee is normally favored by cool, wet weather.

"Normally, lesions appear on leaves with water soaked margins when the infection begins.

"The leaves eventually dry up and roll inwards as they turn brown," she said.

She added that the same symptoms are observed with tomatoes, onions and potatoes when attacked by blight.

"The brown, dried leaves normally do not shed but remain attached to the plant.

Sometimes the leaves appear like they have been scorched by fire," she said.

For livestock farmers, the rainy season comes along with coccidiosis, pneumonia and Rift Valley Fever, among others. Coccidiosis affects mainly chicken, pigs, sheep and goats.

On the other hand, sheep and goats and even chickens are prone to pneumonia, with a number of farmers recording deaths.

"I lost my five goat kids last week to pneumonia.

"They were rained on and after two days, they developed the disease.

"It was too late when the vet arrived," said Jackson Mutisya, a farmer in Kangundo, on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Several cases of the deadly Rift Valley Fever have been reported in the East African nation.

The disease affects cattle, sheep and goats and also humans.

The government on Saturday last week issued an alert on the disease, citing possible outbreak due to the rains. Mosquitos spread the Rift Valley Fever virus, and with the rains, the insects multiply faster.

Veterinary services director Obadiah Njagi and medical services director Jackson Kioko said in statement that the weather conditions are ideal for mosquito breeding and increase the risk of Rift Valley Fever outbreak in Wajir, Garissa, Tana River, Malindi, Kwale, Laikipia and Kajiado.

The major outbreak in Kenya was reported in 2006/2007 following prolonged rain. At least 160 people died and the livestock sector lost about 40 million dollars, according to official figures.


Kenya to increase access of certified seeds to boost potato production

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya plans to increase access of certified seeds to small scale farmers in order boost potato production, a senior government official said on Friday.

Mwangi Kiunjuri, the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, told an agricultural forum in Nairobi that in order for the potato sub-sector to play its rightful role in economic development, the forthcoming Agriculture Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy (ASTGS) has identified very specific interventions that include investments in potato seeds, production and multiplication.

"We want to increase supply of certified seed potato as well as strengthen certification services to small scale farmers so that we double the value of the country’s potato production

that currently stands at 500 million U.S. dollars annually," Kiunjuri said during the third Annual National Potato Conference and Trade Fair.

The daylong event was organized by the National Potato Council of Kenya which brought together policymakers and the private sector to review ways to enhance value addition in the potato sector.

The task of expanding the country’s potato production will be spearheaded by the National Potato Transformation Technical Working Group.

Kiunjuri said Kenya’s potato is dependent on the small holder farmers who contribute about 90 percent of total production.

The Ministry of Agriculture has identified potato as one of the key crops that can effectively complement maize as a driver of the food and nutrition security.

Kiunjuri said potato is the second most important food crop after maize and is both a staple food and a cash crop for many rural and urban families.

Richard Lesiyampe, the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture said potato farmers typically get poor returns as a result of the high cost of production, uncoordinated marketing activities as well as poor road infrastructure.

Lesiyampe said the ministry of agriculture, working together with country governments and the private sector expects to make interventions in the potato value chain that includes harmonization of legislation and regulation on potato weights and measures at the retail market.


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