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Kenya Seed varieties ensure food nutrition and sufficiency

By Jane Gitau

Kenya Seed Company (KSC) is a State Corporation under the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperatives, whose mandate is research, production, distribution and sale of top-quality certified seeds to the Kenyan farmers and beyond. In doing this we play a key role in the Government’s food security and nutrition under the Big-4 Agenda.

The Company’s range of products has expanded to include over 60 certified seed varieties of maize, pasture, horticulture, sorghum, sunflower and vegetable seeds suitable for different agro-ecological zones in the regional market of Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda among others.

Every Kenyan consumes one bag (90kgs) of maize on average annually, this bringing the total to 50 Million bags, the bulk of this being grown using our seeds. Our top-quality seeds are known for their tolerance to pests and diseases, drought as well as high yielding suitable for highlands, transitional zones, mid-altitude, lowlands, and dryland zones.

We pride ourselves in availing certified seeds to our farmers, whose qualities is unmatched and the same is attested by our regulator the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) through its certification program.

The Company has distribution outlets in major towns in the country namely: Kitale, Bungoma, Kakamega, Kisii, Kericho, Narok, Eldoret and Nakuru. Our subsidiary Simlaw Seed Kenya operates in Nairobi with branches in Karatina, Meru and Loitoktok.  For the areas not served by branches we have licensed agents and stockist who trade in our products and their number is approximately 2,000 across the country.

KSC varieties for the highland’s areas include: H6213, H6218, H629, H614 among others, whereas the transitional varieties are H624 and H520. Mid-altitude is made up of H513, H516, and H517. In the Lowland/dryland areas we have PH1, PH2, DH02, DH04. The Company has also developed varieties tolerant to Striga weed like H528 popularly known as Ua Kayongo and the latest new varieties in the block include H6506 which is tolerant to Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND) and H532 which is water efficient.

The Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has led to the dramatic loss of human life across the world and this has brought unprecedented challenge with deep social and economic consequences including compromising food security and nutrition. The Kenyan government has categorized food as an essential service thus ensuring free movement of agricultural produce and goods across the country in a time of restricted movement.

The Company has put in place interventions guided by the government to protect staff and its stakeholders from effects of the pandemic, these include provision of soap and running water at designated areas, provision of masks & sanitizers, allowing staff to work from home, ensuring social distance in offices & sales outlets. In collaboration with health facilities we have sensitized our employees, agents and stockists on all matters pertaining to the Covid-19 disease, as well as working with Trans Nzoia County in supporting the vulnerable groups in our community through our corporate social responsibility (CSR) program.

In terms of food security, traditional food crops suited for arid and semi-arid areas such as sorghum and millet are marketed. When milled whole they provide lipids and sterols which are important in cellular nutrition. Farmers are encouraged to venture into these crops such as Serena and Seredo sorghums, finger millet such as P224 for their food nutrition and sufficiency needs. Others include wheat and rice which are very vital in preventing constipation, reduction of intestinal hemorrhoids, colon cancer and eczema and rheumatism. Available wheat varieties include Njoro II, KS Mwamba, KS Simba, KS Ndume and KS Farasi. Studies have shown also that rice is recommended in cases of excess uric acid in the blood. Our varieties include Nerica 4 and Nerica 10.

Nutritionally, maize contains considerable potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. It is also a good source of fiber. Consumption of maize will reduce intestinal dyspepsia characterized by fermentation, gas and pain. It also helps prevent celiac disease and reduces blood cholesterol.

Kenya Seed Company is also in seed multiplication of bean varieties. This is done through Simlaw Seeds, a subsidiary which mainly deals in beans and vegetables. These include the climbing beans i.e Kenya Safi, Kenya Mavuno and Kenya Tamu that yield between 18 - 22 bags per acre compared to field beans that give half of that or lower in an acre. Other legumes such as peas help those suffering from heart failure and is necessary for proper functioning of the nervous system and appropriate food for expectant and lactating mothers because of its richness in proteins, vitamins and minerals.

Suitable agronomic practices to help maintain food security

With decreased land size through subdivision and climate change, crop productivity per unit area has declined over time.  There is need therefore to maximize on crop productivity by use of appropriate crop agronomic practices.  Key factors that have played a role are land preparation, planting techniques, fertilization, weed, insect and disease control.

Kenya Seed Company ensures that the products used for seed treatment are effective and economically viable in order to give farmers value for their money.  The seed treatment is also one of the ways of ensuring that the crops are protected at an early stage when the seedlings are vulnerable and the control of both soil and seed borne pests and diseases is important.  Proper weed management ensures that crops are protected from weeds that competed with nutrients and also are an alternative host to some of the serious pests and disease. Research has shown that weeds left unchecked can reduce final yields by up to 100 %. Integrated weed management is essential to make farming a profitable enterprise.  

Apart from our varieties being developed that are tolerant to major pests and diseases, environmental conditions and climate change has resulted in infestation of our crop by new pests and diseases or certain conditions pre disposes the crops to infestations. It’s important that farmers practice integrated pests and diseases management in their farms and the first step in crop protection is prevention.

Pest and diseases such as Fall Army Worm, smut, maize streak virus, grey leaf spot, stalk borer, termites, rusts and recently locusts’ cause yield declines and a farmer needs to adopt ways and means of containing them within the threshold level in order to achieve the desired results of production. This is done by ensuring that the crop fields are inspected regularly through a process called scouting.

Field scouting will help the farmer understand better the pest, disease problem in the field and gain knowledge on how to manage leading to better decisions making and ultimate enhancing of crop production.  It will also result in economical use of resources such as pesticides and minimize excessive use of pesticides that are injurious to the environment. Once the threshold is understood application of appropriate remedy at the right time will ensure the crops are well protected.

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