Nandi bets on regional blocs to raise earnings
Nandi County Executive Committee Member Agriculture Dr Kiplimo Arap Lagat talks about investment opportunities available:
1. Nandi county enjoys the proximity of two economic blocs – North Rift Economic Bloc (NOREB) and Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB). What strategies have you embraced to enable farmers exploit opportunities in agriculture sector?
Clearly, both economic blocs offer us an immediate market for our farm produce. Having this in mind, we have strategically positioned ourselves to serve the needs of these markets.
LREB has a population of 14 million which is huge for us since we enjoy the comparative advantages in milk production and horticulture among other key food crops in the region like maize. Similarly, NOREB offers a strategic opportunity to exploit the economies of scale for export of our horticultural produce. We are now finalising tendering of our milk processing plant which will open this year.
These are opportunities for big and small investors. We have also established a Nandi Farmer’s Dairy Union which constitute about 30 primary cooperatives. This financial year, we have supported the cooperatives to construct milk cooling plants in addition to another 35 coolers already in operation.
2. Nandi is endowed with fertile soil and adequate rainfall throughout the year, which is conducive for dairy and crop production but poor marketS is still big bottleneck to farmers. What are you doing to address this challenge?
Nandi is blessed in terms of ecological conditions for farming but this potential remains untapped. We want to invest in value addition which will increase wider market access and incomes for our farmers.
We are helping farmers to improve soil conditions by conducting testing and using appropriate fertilisers.
We are also investing in the micro-irrigation projects in some catchment areas.
3. Tea is Kenya’s leading cash crop and Nandi county is among the leading producers. Are there any initiatives to support small scale farmers?
We are working with the national government to provide access to the blended subsidised fertiliser which will be available in National Cereals and Produce Board depots. We are also working with co-operatives to establish farmer-owned value addition products.
During my tenure as Trade, Investment and Industrialisation executive, I facilitated Siret Tea Company Ltd, which is fully owned by a co-operative in Nandi. The aim is to establish an Export and Processing Zone factory which is now under construction and EPZA has issued them with a provisional license.
Once complete, this will offer farmers great opportunity to export tax free their value added tea products globally.
4. Dairy production is a thriving sub-sector but most farmers hawk their produce due to poor prices offered by processors. Your take on this...
Our solution to this is the Nandi Farmer’s Dairy Union. Our aim is to bulk the milk which will enable us to gain bargaining power for better prices in the market beside value addition. With better prices, hawking will be reduced or eliminated completely. We are also working closely with the Kenya Dairy Board to finalise regulations that will make it illegal to hawk raw milk. The new regulations requires vendors to obtain requisite license to trade in milk. As part of the change, all institutions including schools and hospitals will be required to buy pasteurised milk from a licensed processor only.
5. A number of cattle dips have remained dormant in parts of the county. Those that have been revived are barely useful. What steps have you taken towards this challenge and to curb livestock diseases?
We have embarked on renovation of all cattle dips. In the last financial year, we renovated 60 cattle dips and this year, a similar number is underway for renovation.
We have also supplied all operational dips with acaricides. We just concluded a joint vaccination exercise with the NOREB Counties for Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). In addition, we have put in place mechanism to monitor incidences of any disease that endangers our animals.
6. What is the county government doing to strengthen Cooperative movements?
It is now mandatory for every farmer wishing to access services from the county to register as a member of one. We are also establishing unions among primary cooperatives in all key sub-sectors for instance dairy, tea, coffee and sugar. We are also working on improving governance of these co-operatives through intensive training. We are partnering with the Co-operative University to ensure all officials are retrained and elected official undergo mandatory training. In the past, mismanagement of the co-operatives has led to farmers losing their savings and investments.
The cabinet has now approved formation of task-force to look into all historical issues affecting co-operatives and prosecute any culpable individuals.
7. Extension services died in most regions. How is the situation in Nandi?
We have extension officers in every ward for agriculture, animal production, veterinary and co-operatives. But they are few.
Our challenge is funds. We need more money to increase the number of these extension officers. Most of them are retiring and we need to hire more officers.
We have 45 Artificial Insemination officers who also double up as animal assistants all facilitated with motorbikes.
8. What new agri opportunities are you offering to farmers?
Through our partnership with Meru Greens, an export company in EPZ Athi River, we have introduced farmers to venture into French Beans for export.
In the last six months alone, we have exported 200 metric tonnes of the beans to Europe.
We are also introducing avocado through partnership with some export companies. We are expanding the production of special varieties of potatoes for value addition among others.
9. Are there public, private partnership initiative geared towards bolstering agriculture in Nandi?
Yes, we are in the process of engaging a number of private investors. There are many agri-opportunities that can be tapped. Key among them is the horticulture production for export which offers unlimited market. We are engaging with a number of youths and other progressive farmers who are keen to invest in this sector.
We are also working closely with other counties in the NOREB to implement the National Export strategy in the region and utilise Eldoret International Export. Export market has unlimited demand and prices and less elastic compared to those produce for the local market.