Farming

Kenya plants first BT cotton seed

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Kenya has now joined six other African countries in commercial cultivation of Bt cotton. This was after the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya officially launched the new cotton in the country and planted the first Bt cotton seed with farmers at Alupe University College, Busia County.

The Cabinet granted approval for commercial farming of the genetically improved cotton on December 19, 2019 in a plan to revitalize Kenya’s cotton, textile and apparel sector. The planting in Busia marked the first of 1,000 on-farm demonstration plots to be planted in 23 counties for training at least 40,000 farmers prior to full commercial roll-out in the country.

Bt cotton has been improved with the ability to resist the African bollworm, the single most destructive cotton pest, causing up to 100 percent loss. With Bt cotton, Kenyan farmers will enjoy a four-fold reduction in production cost.

“The global experience with Bt cotton adopting countries shows the improved variety is a viable intervention to help boost cotton production by addressing the challenges caused by pests in addition to increased yields per unit area and lower cost of production,” Cabinet Secretary (CS) Munya said.

Hon. Munya revealed that the country targets to have over 200,000 acres under commercial Bt cotton cultivation, creating over 25,000 jobs for Kenyans along the value chain. “These job opportunities will be in cultivation, processing or trading in locally manufactured garments and clothes,” said the CS. “Cultivation of Bt cotton by our farmers will guarantee a constant supply of raw materials to ginneries and cotton processing industries thus supporting value addition and job creation up the value chain,” he added.

Bt cotton is currently planted in 15 countries globally covering an area of 24 million hectares. The top three leading Bt cotton producers are India (11.6 Million hectares), USA (5.06 Million Hectares) and China (2.93 Million Hectares).

Kenya now becomes the latest entrant joining South Africa, Sudan, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria and eSwatini in planting Bt cotton in Africa. Planting Bt cotton has shown it drastically cuts use of harmful insecticides leading to cleaner environments and improved farmer health. Additionally, farmers realize increased yields per unit area due to reduced production costs.

“With the advancement of science and technology such as Bt Cotton, opportunities now exist for rollout of interventions that can turn the cotton, textile and apparel sector around quickly.” In the Government’s Big Four Agenda, the Manufacturing pillar has identified back-ward and forward linkages with the agricultural sector through agro-processing and value addition as a critical success factor.

The CS said Kenya’s textile and apparel products have preferential market access to the United States of America under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade framework. “Additionally, Kenya has other attractive market access agreements with the European Union while the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) provide significant export opportunities for textile and apparel products,” Munya remarked.

He exuded confidence that commercial planting of Bt cotton demonstrates Kenya’s willingness and ability to harness the power of Science, Technology and Innovation, exploring solutions to the numerous challenges facing the agricultural sector.

Bt cotton adoption, and successful revitalization of the cotton, textile and apparel sector will make a significant contribution to the country’s socio-economic growth, improving livelihoods.

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