Migori farmers adapt to dry spell

By , K24 Digital
On Mon, 30 Jan, 2023 13:13 | 3 mins read
Migori farmers adapt to dry spell
Beatrice Achieng’ and her husband Phillip Ouma who are small-scale farmers from West Kanyamkago Ward in Uriri Constituency inside their vegetable farm. PHOTO/KNA

The prolonged drought, being experienced across the country, is becoming a great threat to many subsistence farmers, especially in Migori County, where it has impacted negatively on their crops leading to low production.

However, most of these farmers who shifted from growing tobacco to other crops are now trying to address the serious dilemma they are facing.

Phillip Ouma, a farmer from West Kanyamkago in Uriri Constituency, says that they have reverted to planting different types of vegetables that can be grown without depending on rain waters.

They have also embraced crops that are able to resist drought, a shift that has seen them make a breakthrough in their daily income allowing many of them to fend well for their families.

“Initially we used to grow tobacco but after doing our calculations, our expenditure was more than what we received in return hence no profit. We had to shift to the growing of other crops,” Ouma said when a KNA crew visited him at his home.

The long thought of making the shift from tobacco farming to vegetable growing has brought a drastic change in income since they always have a ready market from local buyers.

Beatrice Achieng’ said that they had received training from an NGO on different farming methods which have helped conserve water in the soil even with the presence of the drought.

According to her, they are now planting drought-resistant crop varieties like cassava and sweet potatoes which are known for their hardy nature of withstanding severe drought.

"The NGO introduced new farming techniques to us like the sunken mandala which increases soil water retention capacity and can sustain our vegetables for a longer period of time during drought seasons,” she remarked.

The fact that all the dams that were dug in the region by the government have dried up has always made farming a bit difficult in the region with many farmers suffering big losses after their young crops wither due to the scorching sun.

According to Isaack Ogutu, a farm system officer, they have taught farmers various water conservation tricks that have succeeded in the retention of the much-needed water for crop germination and growing.

Ogutu adds that local farmers have also been encouraged to plant indigenous crops like night shed which take a shorter period to grow, mature and harvested early before drought strikes hard.

However, he decried the adverse effects of climate change which has become a big threat to the agricultural sector with the droughts lasting longer than anticipated.

"As an Organization, we are encouraging our farmers to plant early maturing crops so that they can be able to harvest before drought comes. We also promote the growth of drought resistance crops to ensure food security,” Ogutu said.

Ogutu also noted that the local farmers have been comprehensively taught environmental conservation measures like tree planting which are able to stabilize the effects of climate change now and even in future days,  as well as being educated on the best practice of avoiding non-decomposing materials, which may pollute the environment.

The making of compost manure and use by farmers has also been inculcated in farmers for the sake of increasing soil fertility and deepening soil capacity to hold water for a long period.

Caroline Odette, the county chief nutritionist, while speaking during a farmers’ field day in Uriri constituency, urged farmers to plant oranges and sweet potatoes among many other fruits which are drought resistant and also provide enough vitamin A to human bodies.

Odette said that this will reduce cases of malnutrition which has increased ten-fold in the County and especially in tobacco-growing villages.

"Migori is one of the counties which is highly ranked in malnutrition cases across the country. Drought has contributed to this and more in areas where tobacco is largely grown leaving their residents without food,” the nutritionist noted.

The local farmers are now pleading with the National and County governments to help them sink boreholes which will provide them with sustainable sources of water for doing irrigation crop farming in the region.

They also believe that this will increase food production in the country and boost food security besides being able to earn good income from their farm produce and promote good family life.

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