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Erratic weather shapes 2018 as one
of worst years for Kenyan farmers

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- A majority of Kenyan farmers cannot wait for 2018 to end as the year shapes out to be one of the toughest, thanks to erratic weather.

The weather in the East African nation has been unpredictable this year unlike in the past, with experts warning that farmers should brace more volatility in future.

After a biting dry spell at the start of the year, the East African nation’s farmers had to grapple with excessive rains from March to May.

A biting cold weather then set in soon after and still persists across the East African nation, yet it was predicted that it would end last month.

The drastic change in weather pattern has meant that farmers have to grapple with more diseases and pests, high costs of production and declined harvests.

Both livestock and crop farmers have been affected by the unpredictable weather, but the latter have been hit harder. For livestock, the worst hit are poultry and pig farmers and growers of fodder grass for baling into hay.

Poultry farmers across the country have seen production of eggs go down due to the cold weather.

“The cold weather causes stress to birds making them cut laying eggs. Production from my 300 layers dropped by a third and had started to rise when the cold weather disappeared for a week but it’s now back,” Antony Mutua, a poultry farmer in Ruai on the outskirts of Nairobi, said Wednesday.

The farmer has also had to grapple with cold weather diseases that include coccidiosis, increasing his cost of production.

“Certainly I cannot wait for this year to end. If the weather will remain like this, then farming would be a loss making venture,” he noted.

A number of pig farmers in Kenya are currently counting losses as the African Swine Fever wipes out the animals.

The disease, which has no cure, has been blamed on recent rains that spread the virus from one farm to another through surface runoff. Some farmers have lost up to 300 pigs in two weeks.

“I planted my fodder grass in March and could not harvest for baling because of the cold weather and heavy rains,” said farmer Moses Njeru from Nakuru, North West of the capital.

The Boma Rhodes grass over matured on the farm, and thus could not dry on time reducing its quality.

“I harvested last month, baled it but I am selling at low price because farmers can tell that it over-matured,” he said.

Growers of tomatoes, potatoes, strawberry, maize, onions and coffee have had one of the worst seasons this year.

Tomato and potato farmers who grow the crops in the field have had to battle blight for the better part of this year, thanks to the cold weather.

“So far this has been a bad year. I have never sprayed my crop against blight for a long time like I did this year. I started in March and to date I am still doing it,” said Leonard Mukirai, who grows the crop in Kajiado County under irrigation.

Farmers in central Kenya are still grappling with blight, which has threatened the cash crop that is exported to markets in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Caroline Wandia, an agronomist in Nyeri, attributed the bacterial blight in coffee to cool, wet weather.

“Normally, lesions appear on leaves with water soaked margins when the infection begins. The leaves eventually dry up and roll inwards as they turn brown. This year has been tough because of heavy rains and cold weather,” she said.

But even as farmers battle diseases and pests, prices of produce have remained low, translating to losses since most producers cannot recoup their production costs.

Agricultural experts have blamed the unpredictable weather to adverse effects of climate change, which are also affecting other parts of the world.

“The Kenyan farmer should brace for tougher times because the weather has become extremely erratic. If it is not excess or depressed rains, the farmer has to fight the cold weather. Globally, this is also the case and it has been blamed on climate change,” said Bernard Moina, an agricultural officer in western Kenya.


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