Gladys Wanga says Homa Bay targets to lead in cotton, edible oils and aquaculture value chains

Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga and other government officials distributing cotton seeds in Homa Bay

By Kimuri Mwangi

Homa Bay County has targeted three value chains with the aim of excelling in them instead of trying to be a leading producer of everything. Governor Gladys Wanga said this when she hosted a breakfast meeting with development partners and key stakeholders in Nairobi on Thursday 26th January. The meeting was for the official launch of registration for the upcoming 2nd Homa Bay Investment Conference to be held from 27th to 29th February in Homabay.

Governor Wanga and other dignitaries during the meeting

“We want to be leaders in certain value chains. We can grow many things in Homa Bay, but we decided that surely you can’t be a Jack of all trades. So, there are certain value chains that we want to be leaders in. While we grow maize, we grow millet, we grow sorghum, we grow coffee. We can’t compete, for example, with other counties on coffee, for example. So, we decided which of these value chains that we want to lead in. And one of those value chains is cotton. Another of those value chains is edible oils. And another of those value chains is fish,” said the Governor.

CS Industrialization, Trade and Investment Rebecca Miano addresses the forum

Wanga said during the recent registration of farmers, Homa Bay registered farmers for 42,000 acres of cotton.  “In the country, just the other year, we were only producing on 5000 acres of cotton as a nation because cotton went down, as you know, this last year, because of some effort that was put by the national government as well, we went from 5000 to 40,000 acres as a country. And for Homabay, we went to about 5000 acres. This year, the nation is targeting to put cotton under 100,000 acres. So how are we going to be leaders? We have already registered farmers for 42,000 acres. So Homa Bay has the potential to raise half of the cotton to be produced in this country. This is not just words. We know the farmers.”

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The Governor said they know the registered cotton farmers and they already have the geolocation of their farms. She added that the farmers need 85 metric tonnes of cotton seed which if available can enable the county to produce half of the cotton in Kenya. In the cotton value chain, the county is looking for a partner who can help with provision of seeds and work with the farmers. The county government is ready pay for some while the farmers can pay for others. There are also plans to capacity building the farmers.

Council of Governors Chairperson and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru during the meeting

However, Wanga says there is a challenge since cotton farmers in Homa Bay are ginning it in Baringo. “That means the farmer gives the whole cotton, somebody goes and gins it, takes the lint, takes the seed, takes the cotton seed cake, takes the cotton seed oil, and the farmer is left with the shorter hand of the stick. So, we are looking for ginning facilities and if we can gin for the first phase, we are good, because there’s a lot of spinning and yarning factories that do not have enough lint,” she opined.

 On Aquaculture and fishing she said they have an advantage since 80% of Kenya’s Lake Victoria is in Homa Bay. An assessment by Gatsby mapped out the entire lake and now she says scientifically they know which areas of the lake where fish farming can be practiced saying there are big opportunities for investors in aquaculture.

The Governor however said Homa Bay might be the largest supplier of fish across the country through Victory farms a private fish farm touted to be the largest producer of fish in East Africa

US Ambassador Meg Whitman addresses the forum

On edible oils, they are looking at the oil palm, which they haven’t started, but are thoroughly researching on it. Sunflower is already ongoing quite a bit. They are also looking at soybean, and have registered farmers in all these areas. Wanga said they have registered farmers for Soybean about 23,000 acres and Sunflower about 19,000 acres.

On Peanuts, “Homa bay is a home of peanuts. Anywhere you step. You can grow peanuts anywhere. Actually, if a lady from Homa Bay is visiting you, they will most likely bring you a gift of peanuts. Every week, I receive visitors in my home, they bring me a bag of peanuts. The only thing we need to do is to find the right seed varieties and deal with aflatoxin, because that is what most of the offtakers are saying. That their aflatoxin is too high, so if the offtakers meet with the farmers, then we are home and dry,” said the Governor.

EU Ambassador to Kenya Henriette Geiger addresses the forum

The other value chains the county is also looking at are avocado, canola, and sweet potatoes as well.

Among those who attended the breakfast meeting were CS Industrialization, Trade and Investment Rebecca Miano, CoG Chair H.E Gov. Anne Waiguru, Excellency Ambassadors and High Commissioners Henriette Geiger(EU), Meg Whitman(US), Neil Wigan(UK), Jenny Da Rin(Australia), Savvas Vladimirou (Cyprus), Medin Tsehaiu (UN), representatives of missions from The Netherlands, Japan, China and Estonia,

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