Wheat is the second most important cereal grain in Kenya after maize. Wheat farming in Kenya is largely done for commercial purposes on a large-scale. Kenya is self-sufficient in the hard variety of wheat, but is a net importer of the softer variety.
Wheat Main Growing Areas in Kenya
Nakuru, Trans Mara, Uasin Gishu, Nyandarua, Narok, Meru Central, Trans Nzoia, Keiyo and Laikipia.
Conditions Favoring Wheat Farming in Kenya
- Gentle slope: The land where wheat is grown is gently or fairly level and this has allowed for mechanization.
- Altitude: The growing areas have a high altitude ranging from 1500 – 2900 mm. This reduces the incidence of diseases.
- Moderate rainfall: The wheat growing areas receive moderate rainfall ranging from 500 mm to 1,270 mm which promotes the growth of wheat.
- Warm temperature: Warm temperatures of 15°C to 20°C at least for three months. This enables maturity of the wheat.
- Fertile soils: Deep fertile volcanic soils which lead to high production.
- Dry spell: Warm dry sunny spell which enhances ripening of wheat and harvesting.
The main species of wheat grown is the durum variety. The crop is grown both by small scale and large scale farmers. The ﬁelds are ploughed by tractors during the dry season. This is followed by several harrowing. Fertilizer is added before sowing.
Sowing is done during the cool moist part of the year through broadcasting or dibbling for poor farmers, while well endowed farmers sow with a drill at a rate of 81 kg /hectare. Seeds are drilled to a depth of at least 4 cm.
Control of weeds is done manually by small scale farmers while large scale farmers use modern scientific methods e.g. application of herbicides and spraying against diseases.
When the crop is ready for harvesting, the small scale farmers use simple tools e.g. sickles or sharp knives to cut the wheat heads. The cut wheat is threshed dried and winnowed. Large scale farmers use machines mainly combine harvesters.
Wheat Processing in Kenya
After harvesting the wheat is milled to obtain wheat flour. The milling process grinds the wheat into tiny particles which is then sifted out as flour. The yellowish flour is bleached to give the attractive white color of the commercial flour.
The ﬂour provides nutritious food and the waste (wheat bran) is used as chicken or dairy feed. Wheat ﬂour is used industrially in distilleries, bakeries and straw plating.
Wheat Marketing in Kenya
The producers may sell the wheat to the National Cereals and Produce Board, a Government parastatal or directly to the millers e.g. Unga Limited. All the wheat produced is consumed locally.
Importance of Wheat Farming in Kenya
Wheat has benefited the economy of Kenya in the following ways:
- Promotion of industrialization – Wheat farming has led to the development of related industries in the growing areas and also in the major urban centres e. g., Nairobi, Eldoret and Nakuru. These are mainly industries that deal in confectionaries.
- Improvement of infrastructure – Roads have been established in the wheat growing areas to assist in the transportation of the Rift Valley Province, this has assisted in the improvement of infrastructure.
- Saves foreign exchange – All the wheat grown in Kenya is for local consumption. However, the country still has to import some wheat to satisfy her domestic requirements. Wheat farming therefore helps the government to save foreign exchange by reducing the amount of wheat imports.
- Employment – Many people have gotten employment through wheat farming directly and indirectly. For example, while some have been employed directly on the wheat farms, others are employed in the related industries e.g. bakeries and other confectionaries.
- Source of income – Through wheat fanning, farmers have earned an income directly through the sale of their crops. This has raised their standards of living and helped in alleviating poverty in the country.
Problems Facing Wheat Farming in Kenya
The productivity of wheat in Kenya is under threat due to the following:
- Inadequate capital – Some of the small scale farmers do not have enough capital for the purchase of expensive farm input such as fertilizers, herbicides and hire farm machinery e. g., tractors and combine harvesters.
- Pests and diseases – The crop is in some instances affected by pests e.g., dusty brown beetle, aphids and the quelea birds and diseases e. g., stem rust, leaf rust, glume blotch. These destroy the crop leading to low yields.
- Climatic hazards – Heavy stormy rains during the rainy seasons destroys the crop as the Wheat is ﬂattened leading to rotting. Drought before the wheat is ready may destroy the entire crop.
- Price ﬂuctuation – Price ﬂuctuations on the domestic market leads to losses for the farmers as at times, they are made to sell their produce at very low prices.
- Inadequate storage facilities – During times of bumper harvest the existing storage facilities are rendered inadequate making the farmers produce to go to waste.
Source: Soft Kenya