Bt cotton ready for harvest – Kenya News Agency
The expected cotton harvest by farmers in Embu and Kirinyaga in September this year is expected to boost dormant ginning factories in the region.
After almost two decades of waiting for the commercialization of BT cotton, the light is finally at the end of the tunnel, as farmers prepare for harvest before the end of the year.
Once harvested, the cotton is expected to boost economic development by creating jobs in the dormant textile sector and freeing Kenyans from dependence on second-hand clothing, also known as Mitumba.
Charles Waturu, the principal researcher on BT cotton, said the government had already trained 50,000 young people and women involved in the production of the crop and, as a result, established five million square feet of industrial sheds.
“Successful implementation of this measure is expected to increase revenues from Sh 3.5 million to Sh 200 billion, create 500,000 cotton-related jobs and a further 100,000 in the garment industry by 2022,” Waturu said.
Bt cotton is a variety of cotton genetically improved through the incorporation of a gene derived from bacteria found in the soil to protect against harmful caterpillars, especially the African bollworm which is the most damaging pest for Culture.
He said the variety, as proven by farmers who have undertaken the planting of premium cotton, is capable of producing bolls from the top of the crop.
Waturu said BT cotton research was conceptualized in 2001 to address the need to manage the most harmful African bollworm, the cotton pest.
Farmers in lower Mwea were able to produce three times the yields of conventional varieties and took less than 130 to 180 days to mature.
For the traditional variety, a lucky farmer can harvest 250 kilograms per acre of crop while BT cotton yields stand at 7,000 kilograms per acre.
He said increasing cotton production would boost the manufacturing sector by providing raw materials for the cotton value chain, including ginners, spinners, textile mills and garment manufacturers, while also creating jobs for young people and women.
While the current annual demand of the domestic market is 140,000 bales with a growth potential of 260,000, the industry produces only 21,000 bales per year.
The commercialization process, Waturu said, began in 2011 and culminated in conditional approval from the National Biosafety Authority in 2016 to the Monsanto company which owns the BT technology.
“The approval required the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) to issue a certificate of authorization when carrying out an environmental impact assessment,” he said.
He said that in June last year, the Ministry of Agriculture, in consultation with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, appointed a 12-member task force to oversee the marketing of the BT cotton.
The working group then launched nine sites for national performance trials in Bura, Katumani, Mwea, Perlera, Kampi ya Mawe, Matuga, Kibos, Alupe and Barwessa. The researcher said the successful adoption of BT cotton is expected to greatly benefit the country
Specifically, smallholder farmers through achieving better yields, higher profits through reducing the cost of pesticide use, increasing cotton production, improving the quality of the crop. cotton and increased export earnings.
The new variety has already been supplied to dryland farmers who had prepared their land and are already harvesting.
Waturu said the project aimed again to provide seeds to 1,000 farmers across the country in September this year.
The then chairman of the Kenya Biotech Agriculture Society Mugo Magondu said farmers have started to reap the benefits of BT cotton because it does not require a lot of spraying.
Magondu said they were grateful to the government for providing free seeds to farmers, which prompted many of them to get into farming.
By Irungu Mwangi