A few months ago, farmers in four green gram producing counties – Kitui, Makueni, Tharaka Nithi and Meru – were a happy lot.
The harvest was good, and they looked forward to a windfall. It did not happen. Today, overproduction of the legume has wiped out the market for their produce.
Last July, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) hosted a meeting of green gram sector stakeholders from the four counties to evaluate and seek strategies to deal with the glut. Among those present were Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu and Agriculture County Executive Committee (CEC) members from the four counties.
“We are trying to arrest the situation, which is moving from a green gram celebration to green gram crisis,” said Dr Romano Kiome, the Chief of Party, Feed the Future Kenya’s Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD) Programme.
Dr Kiome, who chaired the meeting, congratulated the county governments and ICRISAT for their role in increasing the production of the green gram in the last few seasons, leading to a bumper harvest. He challenged the counties to find reliable markets for their farmers.
A number of solutions were proposed, including that county governments to expand storage by negotiating with the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) to use its facilities.
Another proposal was that AVCD and ICRISAT negotiate for the Indian market as well as lobby for a national policy to incorporate green grams in government food purchases. Governor Ngilu said she was impressed with the region’s gram harvest.
“It shows that it is, indeed, possible for people to produce enough food for themselves and have a surplus for sale,” she said.
The researchers found that the size of fingerlings at stocking had no significant effect on the feed conversion ratio (FCR) and the cost of production of one kilogramme of fish.
“In the cold areas, the growth of fingerlings was imperatively slower in terms of weight gain and the food conversion ratio. For fish farming in cooler areas to thrive, technologies such as greenhouses, larger fingerlings and selective breeding for improved cold tolerance, need to be developed,” the researchers said.
According to Mr Genschick, larger fingerlings and quality feed can be used to optimise aquaculture production in warmer areas of western Kenya. Fish farming is a major contributor to food security, nutrition, income generation and employment.
During the 2016/2017 fiscal year, the Fisheries Directorate procured 134,000 fingerlings at Sh2 million for restocking. Mr Arnoud Meijberg, team leader, Kenya Market-led Aquaculture Programme (KMAP), said the project was focusing on large-scale fish farmers from the region.
“We want to create a tipping point in the industry. Although the ‘eat more fish’ campaign has borne fruit, people need to study the market before venturing into fish farming. We are in talks with county governments on the need to provide bigger fingerlings at subsidized prices to increase production substantially,” said Mr Meijberg.
In both the warm and cold regions, the trial established that pelleted feeds should be used instead of mash, whose poor feed conversion ratio slows down fish growth and eats into farmers’ profits
Read More in Issue 40 of Smart Farmer Magazine