Kenya: Failed, and Now Heavy, Rains Spell Doom for Maize Output

6 October 2021

Maize production in the North Rift region is projected to drop by five million bags this season -- from 21 million to 16 million bags.

This is due to the ongoing heavy rains and attacks by pests, threatening the country's food security, as more than 2.5 million Kenyans face starvation.

Agriculture experts and farmers in the region warn that several hectares of maize and wheat risk going to waste as heavy rains have disrupted harvesting.

Most farmers lack proper storage, with private and government agencies charging high prices for driers -- Sh30 per bag -- increasing production cost.

"Due to rainfall failure during the planting season, crops experienced about 30 per cent germination while heavy downpour during the harvesting period will result in rotting; leading to loss of food crops," said Mr Joseph Kosgei, an agricultural expert based in Eldoret.

21 million bags

The Ministry of Agriculture forecasts this season maize harvest to be 20 per cent less than the projected 40 million 90-kgs bags.

According to annual agriculture reports, Rift Valley has continued to experience low yields, with the production declining from 27 million bags to 21 million bags in 2013/2014 down from 31 million bags in the 2012/2013 harvest season.

Several factors ranging from erratic rainfall, substandard farm inputs, disease outbreaks such as fall army worm, head smut, repeated outbreak of Maize Lethal Necrosis and erratic weather patterns have contributed to the decline in maize yield.

In Tran Nzoia County, which is considered the traditional food basket, the agriculture department projects a decline of about 800,000 bags of maize due to delayed rains during the planting season.

Climate change

According to Agriculture Executive Mary Nzomo, the county is projected to harvest 4.8 million bags compared to last season's 5.6 million bags. "We are encouraging our farmers to embrace smart climate agriculture. We are also advising them to make use of climate information and advisories to make informed choices when planning for their production," added Ms Nzomo, noting that farmers need to also adopt crop insurance to mitigate risk associated with climate change.

In Uasin Gishu County, Agriculture Executive Samuel Yego said they expect a small decline in production this year due to delayed rains and the heavy downpour that has disrupted harvesting.

He observed that last year, the devolved unit produced five million bags of maize while the acreage under wheat was 18,000 hectares.

A number of counties in the North Rift region have been spearheading crop diversification and agro-forestry measures as one way to mitigate the negative impact of climate change on food security.

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