BY NAROK COUNTY HEAD OF PRESS, DIANA DAIDO
Agribusiness could create a billion-dollar food market in Narok County. This is especially if the government plans to expand more capital to boost agricultural technology and irrigation of land to grow high-value nutritious foods succeeded.
For years, wheat, barley, maize, tea, coffee, pyrethrum, horticultural products, potatoes and carrots, grown in small and large-scale as well as livestock rearing have been a source of the region’s food security.
The region is divided into four agro ecological zones with high potential for arid, low, medium, and high food production.
“The county administration is reaching out to agribusiness experts to link farming with consumers and make agriculture and agribusiness a catalyst for ending poverty, ” says Agriculture Executive Committee Member Richard Birir.
In the fiscal year 2013/2014, the county budgeted for Sh600 million to boost agricultural production.
This allocation meets the 10 per cent threshold set by the Maputo Declaration committing African leaders to improve agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa and Birir is optimistic that it will accelerate the regions growth.
“The primary aim is to create more jobs, significantly reduce poverty and grow enough cheap, nutritious food to feed thousands of families in
Narok and export the surplus to other parts of the country, while protecting the natural environment. Our main focus is value addition”, explains Birir.
He is confident that food policies sustained public-private investment and strong partnerships backed by open procedures and processes along the entire value chain will be implemented.
“Since agriculture is devolved, we are reviewing some of the old policies to ensure maximum utilization of the natural resources here”, says Birir. Agriculture and agribusiness is at the top of the development and business agenda in Narok County, reinforcing the push for a strong leadership and commitment from the public and private sector to achieve success.
For success, engaging with strategic “high-quality practice” investors is critical, as is the need to strengthening preservation measures, land administration systems and screening investments for sustainable growth. Although, Narok County has vast hectares of fertile yet unused land, the administration is keen to embark on massive sensitisation campaigns to turn the crop-free land into productive zones.
Narok is the country’s leading producer of wheat and barley and dry increasing production, the region can help meet local and global demands. However, more capital is needed together with investment in irrigation and ease of restrictions on access to land.
The county also intends to explore its dairy products to supply more that 70 per cent of the domestic market. The success will largely come from the entrepreneurship of small and large-scale dairy farmers who have to choose high-yielding cross-bred cattle for better returns.
The county plans to improve the linkages to the formal sector through cooperative milk collection and milk cooling centers in six constituencies where milk is produced in large scale. Cooling or chilling plants worth Sh80 million will also be installed. To boost nutrition, residents will be sensitised to develop hay for breeding livestock.
Despite the challenges the government’s policy is to maintain flexibility in setting quality and safety standards for the vital informal chain to bolster milk production. Plans are underway to build a Sh100 million abattoir for meat processing to spur the rural economy and create employment for youth and women. Two irrigation projects funded by the Japan International Cooperative Agency (JICA) have been launched in Olopito.
The authorities now plan to revive coffee farming and are looking for new land to step up production. Pyrethrum raw material will also be analysed for the production of animal feed.
“We intend to bridge the gap of food insecurity by developing a fast-maturing patato variety through collaboration with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and Potato Council”, says Birir. Research shows that Narok County has the potential to grow tonnes of potatoes. “We plan to negotiate for low loans schemes and incentives for farmers from banks and the line authorities to boost their morale in large-scale farming,”Birir asserts. Ways to package local products for the ready markets after the commissioning of new milk chilling plants and potato farms are also being explored.
Two local sugar factories will be expanded to create wealth and employment.
Narok County leading online newspaper.
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