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Private sector urged to offer extension services

NAIROBI, Kenya, March 12 – The government has invited the private sector to partner with it to provide extension services to farmers across the country.

Agriculture Secretary Wilson Songa said on Friday that through the National Agricultural Sector Extension Policy, the government acknowledges that private sector-led service delivery would be efficient in this area and assist to increase agricultural productivity.

The Kenyan system, which largely employs a top-down supply driven approach has in the past been faulted as it fails to empower the farmer to increase productivity.

On its part, the government has blamed the situation on the lack of skilled and adequate extension workers who are required to make frequent visits to farmers and provide information that can assist them.

"In this policy, we have tried to see how we can address extension service a little more comprehensively so that it can reach our farmers more effectively than we are doing now. That is why we are encouraging the private sector to participate in extension service provision," Mr Songa said.

The government also appreciates that if it entered into such a partnership, the private sector would only be able to provide their services to large scale farmers who can afford the fee that would be charged.

In this regard, the Agriculture Secretary said the government would resort to providing its services to the smallholder producers at no charge.

Mr Songa spoke during the launch of a fungicide, known as \’Cabrio\’ by a chemical company BASF that has been developed to control the devastating Coffee Berry Disease (CBD).

Although coffee production in the country has been on an upward trend in the last few years owing to the intervention measures that are being undertaken to improve the sub sector and high international prices, it is hampered by diseases such as CBD.

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Coffee Berry Disease can lead to virtual losses of coffee, even up to 90 percent of the harvest thus the efforts to control it.

But with the introduction and application of this fungicide, BASF Country Manager Patrick Ngugi claims that coffee production in the country could increase by approximately 70 percent.

"There is now renewed interest in coffee and many people are now focused on the control measures for threats such as CBD. The new product has a very safe profile to the user and gives great efficacy to the control of this disease," Mr Ngugi said.

The fungicide which was researched by the Coffee Research Foundation and took approximately seven years, will be marketed to large scale coffee farmers, although there are plans to make available to small holder growers.

A one-litre pack will be sold for Sh7, 500 and can be sprayed in more than three hectares.

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