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Smart crops in Lower Eastern defy drought

Charles Muasya and KNA @PeopleDailyKe

Most parts of the country may be groaning under the weight of a major drought but some farmers in Lower Eastern are expecting bumper harvests.

A spot check by the People Daily in Makueni, Kitui and Tharaka Nithi counties show that farmers who planted drought resistant, traditional crops such as sorghum, millet, pigeon peas and green grams have received high yields while their counterparts who opted for the regular maize and beans crops are staring at empty fields.

Josphat Mavindya of Kiomo-Kyethani village in Mwingi West sub-county says he expects to harvest 20 bags of sorghum this season in addition to improved variety of pigeon peas.

“The maize and beans crops which I had inter-cropped with sorghum and pigeon peas withered long ago after the rains disappeared but the sorghum and millet persevered,” he told farmers who, had visited during a field day organised by International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

He said after studying the weather pattern in the area, he started paying more attention to drought resistant crops saying he makes a good enough harvest each season part of which he sells to buy maize and beans for consumption.

The story is similar in Makueni and Tharaka Nithi counties where ICRISAT has been promoting production of smart crops under Feed the Future’ programme that is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAid).

Elsewhere, a group of more than 1,000 farmers in Mbeere North, Embu county, who were enrolled in a Kenya Cereals Enhancement Programme are expecting a bumper harvest despite the failed rains.

The farmers from Muringari location say they switched from maize and beans to Gadam sorghum after predictions of low December rains.

“We are fortunate to have embraced the programme because at least we will harvest something. Other farmers in the region are in need of relief food but not us,” said Douglas Muchiri, a farmer who harvested 20 bags of the crop.

Embu County Agriculture Executive Patrisio Njiru, Gadam sorghum variety thrives well in low rainfall areas and takes only two months to mature and harvest unlike other varieties that go for around six months.

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