Finger millet field day held in western province of Kenya
ICRISAT, along with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and its local agricultural office, organized a finger millet field day on 23 July in Matungu, in Mumias
District of Kenya, to demonstrate to farmers the benefits of improved varieties, management technologies, value-added products for use in the household and for sale, seed and market accessibility channels, and profitability of finger millet production in comparison to sugarcane and maize production.
During the field day, two neighboring farmers in Matungu Division of Mumias District, Mary Osimbo Murayi and Benjamin Wesonga Amere, who are members of the Matungu Rural Poverty Alleviation (MARP) had displays of improved market-preferred varieties and management technologies, field-scale production of finger millet, small seed packs of improved varieties, value addition products and information materials on improved finger millet production.
A total of 189 farmers, 40% of which were women, attended the field day. Others in attendance were the district and provincial agricultural officials (10), and representatives from ICRISAT (4), KARI (4) and the provincial administration (4). Deputy Provincial Director of Agriculture, Ziporrah Mugonyi, in launching the field day, underlined the food security importance of finger millet as it provides healthy and nutritious food and is a good income earner for local households. She, however, advised that farmers should invest more of their time and land and integrate with markets in order to increase marketable surplus and make finger millet production even more competitive. District Commissioner (DC)
for Mumias, Mr Samson Otieno Okwach, thanked all stakeholders involved in the ICRISAT-HOPE project and urged them to forge closer partnerships and unity of purpose in order to achieve household food and income security in the area within the next 5 years.
Benjamin Wesonga Amere, a 45-year old farmer with a 3-acre farm, whose 2-acre plot of Okhale (an improved finger millet variety) formed part of the displays, narrated how his crop production had gradually evolved from sugarcane and maize, then to maize and finger millet in equal proportions, and finally to settle in a combination of maize and finger millet with finger millet taking two-thirds of the land. He explained that in 2010, the last year he cropped sugarcane, he harvested about 12-15 tons (after 18 months of growing period) on 1 acre that earned him a gross income of about Kshs 20,000 (US$ 250). In 2011, he planted maize and finger millet in equal proportions and after a growing period of 4-5 months, earned a gross income of Kshs 27,000 (US$ 338) and Kshs 36,000 (US$ 450) from 1 acre each of maize and finger millet, respectively. Finger millet gave a gross income of 80% and 35% more than sugarcane and maize, respectively.
In the current season (first rains of 2012), he has 2 acres under finger millet and 1 acre under maize, and hopes to earn a total gross farm income per season of Kshs 72,000 (US$ 900) and Kshs 27,000 (US$ 338), respectively (there are 2 seasons in a year). The farmer says he is now more income secure (able to pay school fees for all his six children) and has adequate food for the family throughout the year.