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Kenyans embrace traditional crops

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 8 – Kenya’s plans to promote the growing of drought tolerant traditional crops as a way of mitigating food insecurity in the country have begun to bear fruit, Agriculture Minister William Ruto has said.

Mr Ruto said on Thursday that since the introduction of the “Orphan Crop Program” in 2006, there had been a significant increase in the planting and consumption of the traditional crops which has also reduced pressure on maize.

“Many of the crops that initially had disappeared from our food varieties have come back. Farmers who had initially run away from cassava, sweet potatoes and green grams have come back and believed that these are important sources of food in our country,” he stressed.

The production of these crops has over time declined due to the inadequate availability of planting materials, low interest by seed companies to multiply the seeds to low demand and change of eating habits among other reasons.

Since the inception of the program, approximately Sh450 million has been spent on the distribution of various food crops to nearly 400,000 farmers across the country.

However, Mr Ruto decried the substantial loss of planting materials that the current drought has had on many parts of the country which called for the speedy production of drought resistant crops.

Towards this end, the ministry has contracted Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, Kenya Seeds Company, Pyrethrum Board of Kenya and seven agricultural training centres to provide mechanism to produce more of these planting materials.

“My ministry will finance the venture with Sh150million. The materials will be ready for planting during the long rains of 2010,” he disclosed.

The minister spoke when he flagged off 220 tonnes of seeds and 1.2 million and 870, 000 cassava and sweet potato cuttings respectively that will be distributed to farmers across seven provinces for planting during the anticipated short rains season.

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Mr Ruto said that over Sh1 billion worth of seeds had also been distributed to farmers in hunger stricken areas.

“Every citizen who is collecting food rations is also given seeds so that even as they benefit from the government’s supply of food, they are empowered to produce their own food,” he explained.

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