Kericho County is on its way to reclaiming its lost glory as a top pyrethrum producer in Kenya. This is almost two decades after farmers replaced the once lucrative cash crop with other crops like maize, potatoes and tobacco, in the fertile areas of Kipkelion East Sub County including Londiani,Tendeno, Sorget Kedowa and parts of Chepseon Ward.
Due to the use of synthetic insecticides by America which was Kenya’s biggest net export market coupled with the mismanagement of the Kenya Pyrethrum Board in the mid-2000s, pyrethrum prices plummeted, forcing farmers to abandon it and turn to potatoes and maize farming for quick cash.
The County Government of Kericho under Governor Dr.Erick Mutai on assumption of office in October 2022,kick started the project with the issuing over 4000 bags of Pyrethrum seedlings benefitting over 3000 farmers enabling them to plant over 4000 acres of the lucrative crop.
Kericho is now the third biggest producer of Pyrethrum after Nakuru and Bomet having produced over 90,000 kgs last year earning the farmers Kshs. 28 million. According to Governor Mutai, Kericho may dethrone Nakuru and Bomet once the over 4000 acres planted around November 2022, courtesy of the seeds distributed under the Equalizer Seedlings Program mature, as farmers start harvesting later this year.
“I’m glad our farmers are enthusiastic about the cash crop. This is the game changer that will catapult our county’s economic status. We shall continue to support our farmers produce more to earn more. I am glad to report that as at September this year our target of production of 320,000 kgs earning our farmers over Kshs 100 m will be achieved”, opined Governor Mutai. We are among the few areas blessed with a high extractable pyretic content of between 1.5-2.0 earning our farmers between Kshs 310-370 per kilo,” said the Governor.
Governor Mutai says they have also engaged an active buyer, Kentegra Biotechnology Holdings, which d is also providing farmers with seeds, fertilizer, and technical support.
Kentegra is a United States-based company that contracts farmers and buys dried flowers from them. It started operations in Kenya after signing an investment deal with the Kenyan Government in August 2017.
He said that under the terms of the agreement with the ready buyer, farmers will receive their payments via M-Pesa within three days of delivering their produce ensuring farmers are financially empowered.
Instead of opting for a flower variety that grows once a year and favoured by developed nations, Kentegra is said to have chosen a variety that produces a flower every two weeks for 10 months in the year. This, Governor Mutai added, affords farmers regular cash flow (they are paid a week after delivery) and simultaneously protects their crop with a shorter growth cycle.
According to Kericho Agriculture Chief Officer Betsy Chebet, the County Government looks forward to partnership with key players like Kentegra to utilize the established County aggregation Industrial Park to establish a factory for value addition.
“In the next two years, our strategic upward production will see us achieve the feasibility for the construction of a factory right here in Kericho, creating jobs and business opportunities to our people”, she said. “We look forward to strategic partnerships not limited to provision of farm inputs, solar driers and pyrethrum buying centres to help farmers cope with the weather sensitive product”, she added.