Kilifi, KENYA: Cassava production in Kilifi County is set to increase as the government through the Agriculture and Food Authority has introduced a technology that will increase the availability of cassava planting materials in the area throughout the year.
The technology known as Rapid Multiplication of Cassava through the use of Minisett technique; involves the cutting of cassava stem (planting material) into smaller parts (mini-stems) with 2 nodes.
According to AFA Technical and Advisory Services Manager in Food and Crop Directorate Peter Mwangi, the availability of planting material had been scarce due to the prolonged period of drought in Kilifi County and so the new technique will help farmers produce more Cassava.
“We saw the need of trying to increase the production of Cassava through the use of Minisetts instead of farmers wasting a whole stem using the traditional way of planting as a farmer can obtain about 12,000 plants from one mother plant each year using the new technique.” Said Mwangi.
Mwangi adds that the cassava stem needs to be cut into smaller parts using sharp objects like saw, secateurs or cutlass as blunt edges damage the stems exposing it to infections.
“Thereafter, sprouting can be done in a nursery box or in loose soils on the ground with adequate moisture with 10cm spacing and after 1 month when sprouting occurs, the mini-stems can be transplanted into fields, ensuring that they are well taken care of to produce healthy strong plants.” Added Mr. Mwangi.
Cassava has been identified as a flagship of Kilifi County and the government together with other stakeholders have come up with ways to promote its production.
Due to the crop being a very important staple in Kenya and even an industrial crop now, a lot of investments are being done on it in order to create food security throughout the year in the county.
According to Duncan Karimi the sub-county Agricultural officer Kilifi South, the project is now at the pilot phase and two farmer groups in Kilifi South are being introduced to the technology at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation( former KARI) based in Mtwapa.
“We are working with groups that have a membership of 25-30, who after getting to learn about the technology they can use the information to sell more planting material or their produce. At the moment we are working with Mtomondoni Scheme Self-Help Group and Kizingitini Farmer self-help group. The training is free.” Said Mr. Karimi.
AFA is also encouraging the farmers to plant the Tajirika species of Cassava which is favorable for commercialization due to its high yield production compared to the traditional Kapandameno type.
Kilifi County is also in the process of coming up with a Cassava Industry to promote the production of the crop in the county; to create food security and employment for the locals.
“We have partnered with East Africa Productivity programme that have given us production machines costing about sh. 5 million to start the Cassava Industry and the county has set aside sh.6 million in this ending financial year to get land to set up the factory. In the next financial year 2018/2019 the county has set up sh.30 Million to set up a factory at Tezo Mbuyuni.” Said Tsuma Tembo, Kilifi County crop officer.
He added that the factory will enable the locals to produce flour and other products for local consumption and even sell to other counties.
Allan Karema, 52, a cassava farmer in Kilifi from Mtomondoni Scheme Self-Help Group who has 6 years in cassava farming, lauded the new farming technology saying that it has brought a lot of profits for him ever since he started planting Tajirika species of Cassava.
“From selling the Cassava stems to even selling the cassava; Tajirika cassava is very profitable. I used to plant Pandameno but it did not yield more produce at times I used to get only two cassavas from one plant.” Said Karema.
He added that at the beginning when they were introduced to Tajirika Cassava, many complained that the Cassava was very watery but after Kapandameno disappeared in the market they had to embrace Tajirika.
“Preserving the Tajirika cassava stem (planting material) was quite a challenge, as we used to preserve them under trees or in wet areas such as the bathroom and the stem would dry up when placed under a tree. But with the new minisett technology we have been able to overcome this challenge.” He added.
According to Karema, while using the traditional method of cassava stem (planting material) preservation, one could not yield much from it as one could lose almost 50% of the cassava produce, but with the minisett technology, one is guaranteed of not getting any losses.
Through this technology, Kilifi residents hope to sustainably increase agricultural productivity and income; creating food security in the area that has been adversely affected by drought and famine.