Farmers Assured of Coffee Seedlings – Kenya News Agency

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Ruiru’s Coffee Research Institute, (CRI), assured farmers that they had developed mechanisms to increase the production of seedlings to meet local demand.

Kenya Agricultural Livestock and Research Organization (KALRO) Deputy Director General in charge of Crops (DDGC) Dr. Felista Makini said the construction of  a modern seed propagation unit and the installation of a drip irrigation system will make it possible to produce enough seedlings to farmers.

He stated that the upgrade was possible through cooperation between Kenyan government and Turkish governments. The 2 acre seed garden saw its production increased to address the perennial shortage of seedlings.

: Coffee propagation at CRI, where multiplication is being done

Speaking during the launch of the Drip irrigation system and seed propagator at the CRI, Makini said  the current demand for seeds in the country was about four tons against the average production of about two tons annually.

“ We envisage an increase in area under improved coffee varieties following these two facilities  enhancing the coffee production and this will translate to higher export earnings for the country, higher incomes for coffee growers and more sustainable production systems for improved quality of life”, she said.

Dr. Makini stated that the main obstacle to seed production is moisture stress, as illustrated by the below-average rainfall performance for Ruiru centre over the last few years.

“This Centre received about 600mm of rainfall the whole of last year, while coffee requires twice that amount per year. The relevance of this irrigation system can therefore not be overemphasized”, the Deputy DDGC said.

On the installation of a seed propagation unit to couple the seed production facility, she explained that that seed propagator has a capacity to propagate 40kgs of seed equivalent to 140,000 plantlets/seedlings.

“It may also be used for grafting 14,000 grafted seedlings at a go. The system will therefore reduce the use of labour since irrigation in the propagators is automated”, she added.

Dr. Makini noted that the CRI which is mandated to research on the coffee value chain has developed climate-smart and disease-resistant varieties – Ruiru 11 hybrid and Batian which has high yields and cup quality and with the varieties also attracting high demand in terms of seed and seedlings than the institution is currently able to meet.

Despite the celebrations, the Deputy DG said they still take cognizant of the challenges facing the coffee sub-sector such as the climate change, high cost of production and volatile markets.

The Government, Dr. Makini noted has embarked on handling all the challenges by undertaking strategic interventions aimed at addressing the issues such as development of climate smart  coffee technologies , introduction of fertilizer subsidy for all coffee farmers, waiver of accumulated debts in coffee cooperatives as well as availing low interest financing options.

Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) Country Director Eyup Yourt  Umullu said that cooperation between Kenya and Turkey dates way back and  constantly working together to strengthen the bilateral  relations and business between the two counties.

“We have been able to establish drip irrigation system for coffee seedlings that include a two acre garden, coffee nursery and main water pump so that all the farms can get water easily”, he said

He explained that the project was one of the many they have set up in Kenya. They have been in Kenya for over 11 years and have had more than 200 projects in areas such as agriculture, educational capacity building, and income generation.

“This year 2023 we are planning on new projects and our priority areas will be in agriculture and income generating projects in different sites within the country”, he said adding that because of the drought that has affected the country they intend to do water pans in arid and semi-arid areas as well as work with various organizations such as the bee keeping institute..

Eyup, from the Coffee Research, stated that the country will be able meet the demand for seeds and be able in turn to increase exports, particularly to Turkiye.

“Kenya exports its coffee to Turkiye but a small number. it can do better and I want to encourage Kenyan companies to explore business opportunities and promote Kenya’s delicious coffee to my Country”, Eyup said

We know that the Kenyan demand for seeds is 4 tonnes per year. However, the project will bring the demand down to 2 tonnes. We believe that the project will allow them to double their existing production.

The Coffee Research Institute Director Dr. Elijah Gichuru said , the seed garden where the   drip irrigation system is  also installed can sustainably produce an average of 1.5 tons of Batian coffee seeds annually and therefore this  will be a substantial contribution to bridging the gap in demand for the seed.

Turkiye embassy representative joined KALRO scientists during launch of drip irrigation system.

“Drip irrigation is the way to go. Water is becoming scarcer, and operational costs like electricity and fuel are increasing. These facilities will therefore also be used for stakeholder training and demonstration while our scientists will use it as a data collection point”, he said .

Dr. Gichuru explained that the traditional way of irrigation coffee including seed gardens has been by overhead irrigation,  which requires a lot of energy but  what the drip irrigation will  require is just power to put water into the tanks  without wasting as it is efficient and efficiency and will spread to the right places,  in small quantities where it is required,

He said that the same system can be adopted by other stakeholders so those using it commercially will have this type of irrigation system. “We are looking at installing more of this system to our other sites such as Meru, Kitale , Koru among others”, Dr. Gichuru said

Moses Ngatha, Murera Ward MCA, thanked the Turkish government. He stated that the project will provide more planting material for the community he represents and is part of the CRI.

“The Kiambu Community has been having a challenge of coffee seedlings and this has resulted with some of them uprooting their trees. “I want to encourage farmers to go back to coffee farming which is black gold. We now have quality seeds and this will assist in good production “< he said

Ngatha said he would make a motion to the Kiambu County Assembly in order to find a way to provide coffee seedlings to farmers who are eligible for subsidized.

The country’s coffee industry supports approximately 700,000 households. It is made up of 525 Coffee Cooperative Societies as well as 4000 Coffee Estates. Through forward and backward linkages, the industry supports about 5 million people and subsequently contributes to food security, employment and Kenya households’ welfare.

Coffee is a major cash crop in Kenya and one of the top foreign exchange earners for Kenya’s economy. It is 5th in GDP contribution after diaspora, horticulture and tourism.

By   Wangari Ndirangu

Source: kenyanews

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