Kenya: Tana Farmers Bank on New Cotton Variety to Improve Fortunes

Farmers at the Hola Irrigation Scheme in Tana River County will be trying their hands on cotton farming once again after numerous futile attempts in the past.

Over forty farmers have entered into a contract with the Makueni Ginnery seeking to try the BT variety of cotton on a 500 acre piece of land.

Speaking to the, the farmers said that the new variety promises better gains compared to the past traditional variety.

"The other varieties we tried here failed us, and that is why you see very few are willing to put their money on cotton. However, we now have faith in this new variety," said Isaac Mohammed.

Mr Isaac noted that after seeing how the new variety was doing in other areas in the country during a field tour, he is upbeat it is suitable for the Hola farmers.

More than 100 farmers quit cotton farming owing to low prices in the market and poor yields because of a pest attack.

"We would work hard, manage the cotton in the best way we could, and also spend money on pesticides, only for the same pests to compromise our yield," said Annah Malika.

According to the Hola Irrigation Scheme manager James Kirimi, the new variety, BT Cotton (Bacillus Thuringiensis) is technology resistant to any cotton pests, and promises to withstand the local climate.

"The stems of this cotton produce a bad smell, leaving a bad taste for caterpillars and aphids, making it good for business," he said.

Mr Kirimi noted that, unlike the hybrid variety that cost farmers a fortune on pesticides, the BT cotton will only require proper irrigation and management.

Also, he noted that the new variety guarantees farmers of better prices, as it will retail at Sh52 per kilogram against Sh48 per Kilo on the hybrid variety.

"Under good management, a farmer is likely to yield at least 1.5 tonnes in a two-acre piece, which translates to Sh78,000," he said.

However, the scheme manager noted farmer's poor skills on handling cotton during harvesting despite training was costing them, urging them to be keen so as not to compromise the quality.

Also, he encouraged farmers to invest more in cotton farming in a bid to capture the starved textile industry and dwindling cotton exports, owing to low production.

"There is a huge market for cotton out here, if only these farmers can take advantage of that opportunity, they will have better returns in a very short period," he said.

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