Paradigm Shift: A Section Of Farmers In Uasin Gishu Leave Maize Farming For Millet
Anne Murei lives in Sosiyo village in Meibeki few Kilometres from Moiben, a fast-growing trading centre in Uasin Gishu County. She one of the few farmers in the region who is going against the grain: growing finger millet.
Anne, “I started growing finger millet over six years ago to avoid growing maize, which is grown by nearly everyone here.”
She harrows the soil then mixes it with organic fertiliser before sowing the seeds, for the crop that takes five months to mature,.
Anne says, “I make rows that are 60 cm apart and then plant 3Kg of seeds per acre, applying four 90Kg bag of fertiliser on the portion. One must cover the seeds with little soil for them to germinate.”
The finger millet farmer buys one kilogramme bag of the seeds for Kshs 500 in retail shops in Eldoret town. According to her It takes five to seven days before the seeds germinate and after three weeks she starts to remove weeds.
Anne, “I continuously weed after every two weeks, which means the crop is labour intensive and perhaps this is why most people shy away from it.”
Previously, Anne harvested 10 bags of millet, eight of which she sold to a nearby boarding school at Kshs 6,000 per bag.
She says, “When I harvest, I keep the produce in sacks for three days so that the high temperatures enable the colour to change to red or black/brown from green. I then dry in the sun for three days before threshing.”
When asked whether the crop is resistant to disease, she explains one can also store the produce directly after sun drying without threshing.
On the outspan to on Eldoret-Nakuru highway, Farmers Trend meets Alice Moimet weeding her crop. She intercrops maize with finger millet with the latter providing a shed to help retain moisture in the soil.
She says the practice also helps her utilise her land well since the maize crop does not compete with the finger millet.
Alice, “I have been growing finger millet for years. The grain has good prices because I sell a 90kg bag at between Sh8,000 and Sh12,000.” She sells mainly her produce to schools and traders in the Eldoret market.
Pauline Koiser is the agricultural officer in Uasin Gishu County, “Finger millet is a gem that is yet to embraced by farmers. The crop is rarely attacked by diseases, save when the conditions are humid or during rainy season. Birds also can be a menace but that is something farmers can deal with.”
According to the Agricultural Officer, with availability of herbicides, the cultivation of the crop is also economical. “In the past, the challenge was the issue of weeds. But with the availability of various herbicides such as 2, 4-D weed killer and Buctril, farmers are able to increase the number of acreage.”
The Agricultural Officer recommends that one should start using herbicides when the unwanted plants have attained three to five leaf stage. “One can also apply CAN to top-dress after six weeks after planting time and also six weeks to harvesting time.”
By Malachi Motano