FIPS Presentation: Cassava And Food Security In East Kenya PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 03 August 2011 04:26

Paul Seward, Farm Input Promotions Africa Ltd., PO Box 5523, 00200-Nairobi, Kenya


Cassava is arguably the most important food security crop in Kenya’s Eastern Province. It survives periods of drought, grows well in poor soils, and performs better than cereal crops. The cassava crop, however, has been devastated by the cassava mosaic virus over the past 10 years, resulting in very low yields. As a result, most farmers have stopped planting the local varieties, which are highly susceptible to the disease.

In March 2010, FIPS-Africa, with support from the KASAL Programme, initiated a campaign to disseminate new varieties e.g. 990005 developed by KARI-Katumani, to farmers in Nzaui district.  Following a positive response from farmers the campaign was continued the following season. In December 2010, FIPS-Africa purchased 120,000 stems of four different varieties (including ex-Mariakani, 990005) from a multiplication site in KARI-Kiboko. These stems were used to establish 240 secondary multiplication sites at the Village level in Nzaui, Machakos, Kilungu, Mbooni, Kibwezi and Mbeere districts. From these multiplication sites, stems will be disseminated to small-holder farmers through FIPS-Africa’s networks of Village-based Agricultural Advisors.

After low rainfall for the second rainy season in succession, farmers are once again faced with hunger after failure of their maize crop. However, farmers have started to harvest the cassava that was disseminated a year earlier. From one plant, farmers are harvesting up to 15 kg of tubers. Initial calculations show that a family of six needs 50-100 cassava plants to achieve food security. Some farmers are even feeding their excess cassava to their chickens, populations of which have increased following a campaign to vaccinate them against the Newcastle disease.

Efforts are required to scale up this campaign which will have a major impact to improve food security and alleviate poverty in this semi-arid region.

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