Plans to revamp pyrethrum farming
The county government has partnered with the Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya (PPCK) to revamp the production of the crop in Kisii.
The partnership will include the recruitment of over 10,000 new farmers who will be provided with seedlings in a plan that will hopefully take the county back to its glory days between the 60s and 80s when it was a leading producer of pyrethrum.
The county government and PPCK will put up nurseries that will provide farmers with quality seedlings with a view of increasing acreage under the crop, according to the firm's acting chief executive Mary Ontiri.
"We want to make sure the region gets it right from the onset even as we seek to revamp pyrethrum farming here," Ms Ontiri said noting the success of the project will also boost the region's economic wellbeing.
Ontiri who spoke during a meeting with Kisii Governor James Ongwae said her company will be paying between Sh200 and Sh250 per kilogram of pyrethrum flowers.
The firm has its processing plant in Nakuru.
"We are determined to make the project work. And the government is ready to support farmers in this venture, right from the grassroots," she said.
The governor said they will make sure sufficient land is available in pyrethrum growing zones to enable PPCK to set up crop nurseries in a plan aimed at lessening the burden of sourcing for seedlings from other regions.
The nurseries will grow the developed Kisii Region Pyrethrum Clone that is disease resistant and has higher pyrethrin content.
"Before, the then pyrethrum board did both regulation and marketing. With the liberalisation of pyrethrum functions, we are now competing with other marketing companies,” Ongwae said.
He asked farmers to embrace pyrethrum farming as it will earn them millions of shillings since it is harvested every three months.
"The crop does not need a lot of land. We are in a new dispensation as far as pyrethrum farming is concerned and I urge as many farmers as possible to embrace the crop," said Ongwae.
From a low of about 40 pyrethrum farmers in 2019, Kisii County now has 480 farmers.
Pyrethrins are often used in household insecticides and products to control insects on pets or livestock. Pyrethrum, a broad-spectrum insecticide, affects a wide range of insects in gardens or farms.
Experimental planting of pyrethrum in Kenya started in 1926 and the first few tonnes were exported six years later.
The pyrethrin content per kilo in Kisii ranges from 1.4 to 1.8 per cent which is likely to increase as farmers grow better quality seedlings.
The number of farmers is expected to increase to around 800 in the short term after the county government unit supplied over 5,000 seedlings to new farmers.
The county government has also promised to support the revival of Masaba Pyrethrum Union and its affiliate societies. It will also be involved in farmer mobilization and training. It will also provide extension services to farmers, according to the governor.
Agriculture executive Esman Onsarigo said the county hopes to recruit around 10,000 new farmers who will grow pyrethrum on at least one acre.
We estimate this will give farmers not less than 250kgs translating to earnings of about Sh70,000 per month, said Onsarigo.
He said other than targeting the revival of the crop in traditional pyrethrum growing areas of Nyaribari Masaba and Bobasi, they are also keen to break new grounds.
"We will also be moving to Nyaribari Chache, Bomachoge Borabu and Bomachoge Chache, which have an unexploited potential," Onsarigo said.
“We believe this venture will help the county to achieve the envisaged County Agricultural and Economic Development Revolution.”
In the 90s, pyrethrum was the third biggest export crop for Kenya, providing income to over 200,000 smallholder farmers. At that time, Kenya controlled over 90 per cent of the world's pyrethrum market. Today, Kenya's share pf the market has plummeted to just two per cent.
Production of pyrethrum in the country has since declined from a high of 18,000 tons in 1992 to the current national production of about 500 tons per year.