by Bedah Mengo
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Farmers in the
Coastal region of Kenya are set for better times following the
launch of hybrid coconut varieties after years of relying on the
locally propagated ones.
This will be the first time for farmers in the East African
nation to plant the hybrid coconuts imported from India.
Coconut is a major cash crop in the region, which is Kenya’s
tourism bedrock, but for many years, farmers have been planting
local varieties that take at least five years to mature.
The new hybrid varieties mature in about two years and offer
Priscilla Gathiga, the CEO of Micro Enterprise Support
Program Trust (MESPT), a development organization that imported
the seeds into the country, said on Friday that for years
farmers at the Coast have been growing only two local varieties.
These are the East African Tall, which has been in production
since the introduction of coconut growing in the country with no
improvement in terms of research, and the Dwarf variety mainly
planted for ornamental purposes and for its water.
"We have imported a total of 6,000 coconut seeds which will
be planted on 120 acres next week under the care of Kenya
Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization.
After six months of successful observation, the seedlings
will be distributed to smallholder farmers across the Coast,"
The trend in other coconut growing countries has been that of
introducing improved hybrid varieties. However, while Kenya has
successfully propagated hybrid seeds for other crops, coconut
has lagged behind.
Farmers at the Coast welcomed the development noting that the
new varieties would offer them more income.
Coconut offers many products that include oil, water, syrup
and sugar, besides the leaves being used for thatching houses.
The crop is the most dominant at the Coast and is one of the
tourist attractions in the region, with visitors mainly loving
the coconut water locally known as madafu, which goes at 0.3
U.S. dollars a cup.
"With the new varieties, I know my work as a grower, a taper
and a coconut honey maker would get a big boost," said Simon
Besides honey, he also makes wine from coconut water, selling
a 750-ml bottle at 0.7 dollars, having acquired the skills from
a state agency.
Other products that can be produced from coconut sap include
vinegar, jam, sauce and nectar.
"The products from coconut include both edible and non-edible
and can offer raw material for several agro-industrial
"The hybrid palms are product specific, that is they produce
water, oil content, fibre content and palm wine production,"
According to the Nuts Development Authority, coconut can earn
Kenya up to 250 million dollars in revenue annually if fully
However, the crop is currently earning the currently some 10
million dollars due to poor quality seedlings and lack of value
The authority notes that the Coastal region has some 8
million coconut trees but most of them are too old.
"Market for Kenya’s coconut products is mainly in Tanzania
and the U.S. but production is low due to many challenges that
include poor seeds.
"With hybrid seeds, farmers should hope for better times as
better varieties of seeds have boosted production of crops like
avocados and passion fruits which are being exported to Europe,"
said Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi.