NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
A majority of crop farmers in Kenya are counting
losses as the country’s weather oscillates from one extreme to
The worst affected are potato and tomato
farmers as the two crops are highly sensitive to weather
changes, especially when grown in the open field.
Many parts of the East African nation are currently
experiencing an unusually cold weather.
The cold weather has followed a season of more than normal
rainfall that led to deaths of livestock and destruction of
property, including crops.
In the past years, the cold weather affected mainly Nairobi,
central and parts of Rift Valley.
However, this time round, areas that are semi-arid or usually
have warm weather and where tomatoes grow well have been hit by
the cold weather, with temperatures in some areas declining to 3
degrees celsius, according to the Meteorological Department.
And those areas that are normally colder where potato
production takes place have extremely low temperatures.
The extreme weather conditions have led to rise in diseases
that include blight, bacterial wilt and root-knot nematodes,
Pests like white flies, caterpillars and aphids have also
found the weather conducive, compounding problems for farmers.
"The extreme change in weather pattern is making farming
"In my many years of farming, I have never seen something
like this," Abel Kariuki, a tomato farmer in Kajiado on the
outskirts of Nairobi, said Tuesday.
The semi-arid county has in the recent years turned to be a
tomato growing area, with many farmers growing the crop under
Kariuki had a good season from August last year to February
before the long rain season set in.
Thereafter, his crop has
been affected by bacterial wilt, spread through rainwater, and
blight due to low temperatures.
"I have used a lot of money on pesticides in bid to save my
crop. I have to spray weekly to fight blight but still, I
haven’t won the war," he said.
He added that so far he has lost about 40 percent of his
tomatoes to blight.
"I have orders currently but I can’t supply because of the
"As farmers, we are hopping from one crisis to another
and it’s all because of the erratic weather pattern," he said.
In Nyeri and Nyandarua, which are potato growing areas, some
farmers harvested zilch from their farms last season in May.
The lucky ones, however, have harvested smaller potatoes that
have low market value.
"We have been having challenges before but this year it has
been worse because a majority of farmers harvested nothing.
"I spent about 400 U.S. dollars to grow my potatoes but only
harvested five sacks from an acre, down from the 15 in the
past," said Samson Ndung’u, a farmer in Nyeri.
The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization
has partly blamed potato farmers’ losses in the region to
bacterial wilt, nematodes and blight,amid cold weather.
The diseases were mainly due to heavy rains and low
temperatures in the region.
"Bacterial wilt spreads rapidly from one farm to another
during rainy season due to surface runoff.
"On the other hand, blight is caused by low temperatures
which makes the leaves turn brown and eventually the crop dies,"
explained Bernard Moina, a crops officer in western Kenya.
Moina blamed the challenges farmers are currently facing to
climate change, noting Kenya has been hit harder due to human
activities that include intense logging and industrial
The agriculture officer further noted to eliminate nematodes,
the soil must be solarized to kill the bacteria.
"Blight and bacterial wilt are the biggest enemies of
potatoes and tomatoes.
"The extreme weather changes have worsened the plight of
farmers," he said.
Prices of the two produce in the Kenyan market have risen
significantly due to low production in the last months.
Kenyans are currently buying a single tomato for up to 0.20
dollars and a small tin of potatoes at a dollar from half the