In Summary
  • Kenya produces 40 million bags of maize a year, against an annual consumption of 52 million. The deficit is normally met through imports.
  • Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri also asked farmers to go for fast-maturing crops to mitigate the effects of the drought.

Mzee Paul Sichere Mukhanji, a farmer in Shitaho village in Kakamega County, is a distraught man.

Since he retired from the Department of Public Works 22 years ago, the 82-year-old has been eking out a living growing maize, beans and bananas on his four-acre parcel of land.

He needs money to pay the medical bills for his bedridden wife, who is battling complications from diabetes and high blood pressure.

This year, the weather has complicated his predicament. The delayed rains have scuttled his plans to plant early and look forward to a bumper maize harvest.

He is one of the millions of farmers across the country who keep looking at the sky for answers, wondering when the rain will come, but get only a blank response from the azure skies.

DROUGHT

The Nation spoke with farmers in Nyeri, Meru, Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia and Tharaka-Nithi, areas largely known for their agricultural productivity, and it was the same story of despair as their crops wilted under the scorching heat.

In Kakamega, Mzee Mukhanji's weary face told of the anxiety and frustrations he was undergoing after the dry spell set in just when farmers in the region were set for the planting season.

“I planted maize and beans on my farm two weeks ago, hoping the rains would come, but that has not happened. The year has been tough and it looks like we could have a failed harvest,” he said.

There is no end in sight to his troubles, with the meteorological department and government officials predicting tough times ahead, especially for maize, the staple food crop.

Kenya produces 40 million bags of maize a year, against an annual consumption of 52 million.

The deficit is normally met through imports from East and Southern Africa, but the regions have also been affected by drought.

ALTERNATIVE CROPS

Kenya Meteorological Department acting Deputy Director Bernard Chanzu asked farmers to “seek alternative means of survival” since the rains will be insufficient.

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri also asked farmers to go for fast-maturing crops to mitigate the effects of the drought.

In Kieni, Nyeri County, farmers hard hit by the drought said they had hoped that this year's harvest would help them recover from the previous failed seasons.

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