Farmers eager to grow new cotton variety
The government has been urged to hasten the commercialization of the BT cotton which is superior to the convectional cotton grown in the country in terms of yield and ability to withstand attacks from pests.
A delegation of Ugandan parliamentarians who were in Mwea to accustom themselves with the BT technology now wants the government to speed up the decision to resolve the matter so that the advantages of the BT cotton can not only be enjoyed by Kenya farmers but the entire East African Community.
The head of the delegation Frend Bwino, said they were in Kenya on seeing is believing mission, Kenya being ahead in the technology.
He said Uganda used to produce more cotton than Kenya but has since declined.
The legislator said through collaboration as neighboring countries, they came to learn Kenya has taken a decision to revive Industrialization particularly through the cotton industry and we learnt the government is in the final stages of testing this BT cotton.
“What we have seen here speaks for itself. We have seen that adopting this BT cotton, one is able to deal with the nuisance of the caterpillar scourge and able to get the crop maturing with as little as four months as compared to the convectional type which matures in nine months,” Bwino said.
As a result, the yield from the BT cotton is more than three times more than the convectional cotton grown in Kenya and the East Africa at large.
“I am taking back a very serious message to Uganda, and I want to ask the government to lead the way so that other members of the East Africa Community can follow,” he said.
The leaders urged the regional presidents to work as a team and direct their respective legal experts to come up with an urgent legislation that will enable farmers to start producing the high bread cotton variety.
“We want our farmers to start growing the high bread variety to stop dependency on importation,” they noted. “We will be pushing for concerted e? orts from the regional leaders to unlock all legal stabling blocks which impede farmers from producing BT cotton.”
The four legislators said it was ironic that even after researchers had come up with the appropriate BT cotton varieties ideal for the region, the region had continued to import linen produced in India and China, produced using the same biotechnology.
The leaders who are members of the Ugandan Parliamentary Committee on Science and Innovation said East African region should be exporting linen from cotton and not the other way round since it has ample land and ideal climate.
“Now that our brothers from the Kenya Agricultural, Research and Livestock Organization (KALRO), have successfully undertaken research on BT cotton for the last 18 years and whose results are indisputable, the respective governments should use the outcome and allow farmers to start growing the variety right away,” Bwino said.
The parliamentarians were speaking at KARLO Mwea, in Kirinyaga County where KALRO has been undertaking the BT cotton research since 2001.
Bwino added that way back in 1985, his country was producing an average of 400,000 bales of cotton per year but after unscrupulous traders started importing second hand clothes the sector started collapsing.
“Those were the days the Ugandan cotton fabric generated huge demand across the region due to the high quality but this is not the actuality today hence the urgent need for the government to allow farmers embrace the emerging technologies,” he said.
Kenya’s lead researcher on the crop Dr Charles Waturu while conducting the parliamentarians on a tour of the research facility said the country was now only producing 10,000 bales of cotton per year which was far below the national requirement.
He said the new variety yields three times compared to the traditional one, requires only three sprays before maturity as compared to 15 for the ordinary crop.
“Besides being early maturing at only four months as compared to nine months for the traditional one the new variety produces high quality fiber and can be grown two times in a year if farmers can be provided with irrigation water.
National Field Trials have been completed within various seven Centers across the country while Waturu has intimated that farmers could start planting the new variety by this coming October once the government gives a nod.