by Ronald Njoroge
KITALE (Xinhua) -- Margaret Simiyu, a
43 year old small scale farmer in Kenya’s northwest region, the
country’s breadbasket, is staring at a blight future in farming
as a result of the ongoing drought that has led to crop failure.
The mother of three, who has been cultivating Kenya’s staple
crop for more than two decades, is set to have another year of
losses as the maize seeds she planted failed to germinate due to
To remain a viable small scale farmer, she is seeking
solutions in science and technology in order to beat the
"I hope the government will soon allow the commercialization
of Genetically Modified (GM) maize that is drought resistant,"
Simiyu told Xinhua in Kitale.
Simiyu together with millions of other small scale farmers
are banking on biotech maize seeds to increase their farm
The East African nation is currently facing a drought that
has resulted in low maize production leading to biting shortages
of the vital commodity.
The shortage has pushed up the retail price of maize flour to
beyond the reach of low income earners.
As a mitigation measure, Kenya is set to import millions of
bags of maize in the next two months to bridge the local maize
Kenya’s journey to adopt GM food crops was enhanced when in
2009, it established the National Biosafety Authority to
regulate GM in the country.
So far it has approved controlled GM trials on a number of
varieties of cotton, maize and sorghum.
Research is being spearheaded by a number of organizations
including the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Organization,
African Agricultural Technology Foundation as well as
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.
However, despite the experiments have started over seven
years ago, none of the GM crops is yet to be made available
commercially in the country.
In 2012, Kenya also imposed a ban on the importation of GM
So far in Africa only South Africa, Egypt, Burkina Faso and
Sudan have approved the commercialization of GM crops.
Another farmer eager to adopt the use of transgenic maize
seeds is Gilbert Bor, a farmer in the key maize growing region
of Uasin Gishu County.
Bor, who farms on a 25 acre piece of land, hopes to use GM
maize seeds to improve production in his farm.
"I am also hopeful that other farmers in Kenya will take up
the technology once the government approves the release of the
GM maize," Bor told Xinhua.
He said that in his many decades of farming he has witnessed
the growth and adoption of hybrid maize.
"I have seen maize production increase every year to the
extent that in my own family and neighbors, it was rare to find
families without food.
"However the recurring drought calls for the adoption of even
better seed varieties," he added.
"So, when there is a new technology in the market, we would
like to move along with it as we trust science as farmers," Bor
This year, the farmer has been forced to plant twice because
rains did not come as expected.