Quinoa: The New Cash Crop for Kenyan Farmers
Farmers in Kenya to Benefit Through Quinoa Farming
Quinoa, a climate-smart crop that can withstand harsh weather conditions, was declared the crop of the year globally in 2013. A decade later, the crop has been introduced in Kenya by the Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) has started commercialising quinoa after it proved to be a viable crop. This high-value crop with unmatched returns is expected to benefit Kenyan farmers and consumers in various ways.
Quinoa, which has been dubbed a “miracle” crop, is a highly nutritious and versatile food that is naturally gluten-free and rich in fiber, protein, and essential vitamins and minerals. It is a crop that is native to South America, and over the years, it has gained immense popularity globally, mainly among health-conscious consumers.
In Kenya, the introduction of quinoa is expected to bring numerous benefits to both farmers and consumers.
Impressive Results from Field Trials
Kalro introduced five quinoa varieties in Embu for research purposes, and from the field trials, the varieties did well, yielding between 2.8 and five tonnes of quinoa per acre. The impressive results informed the decision to expand quinoa farming on a commercial scale. Kalro’s director of research, Lusike Wasilwa, said that a single quinoa plant can yield up to a kilogram, giving farmers more returns.
Drought-Tolerant Crop for Year-Round Yields
Quinoa is a drought-tolerant crop, making it the best bet for farmers who can get yields throughout the year without necessarily relying on rains. With erratic rain patterns due to the effects of climate change, quinoa is a sure bet for farmers. Its drought tolerance makes it an ideal crop for arid regions where farmers can cultivate it and get good returns.
High-Value Crop with Unmatched Returns
Quinoa is a gluten-free grain that is popular among health-conscious consumers. In Kenya, a kilogram of quinoa can fetch as high as Ksh. 1,500 in supermarkets, with most of the supplies coming in from South American countries. The introduction of quinoa in Kenya presents a great opportunity for farmers to tap into the high-value market and earn good returns.
Promotes Food Security and Fights Malnutrition
The introduction of quinoa in Kenya will promote food security by increasing the availability of food for consumption and sale. Quinoa is a nutritious crop with high levels of fibre, calcium, and essential vitamins, making it a key ingredient in fighting diseases and boosting immunity. Its nutritious stalk can be given as livestock fodder when green, and its leaves can be eaten as vegetables, falling in the same category as amaranth, which is popular among Kenyan households.
Efforts to Address the Effects of Climate Change
Kenya, like many other African countries, is grappling with the effects of climate change, which have negatively impacted the agricultural sector. Erratic weather patterns, prolonged droughts, and flooding have resulted in poor harvests and food insecurity. However, the Kenyan government is taking steps to address this challenge by promoting the adoption of climate-smart crops that can withstand harsh climatic conditions. Some of the efforts aimed at addressing the effects of climate change include:
- Promotion of adoption of climate-smart crops: The Kenyan government is promoting the adoption of crops such as quinoa, millet, sorghum, and cassava, which are tolerant to harsh climatic conditions. These crops are expected to help farmers adapt to the effects of climate change and ensure food security.
- Investment in research and development: The government is investing in research and development to develop crop varieties that can thrive in different climatic conditions. This is aimed at ensuring that farmers have access to high-yielding and resilient crop varieties that can withstand the effects of climate change.
- Promotion of sustainable agricultural practices: The government is promoting the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices such as conservation agriculture, agroforestry, and the use of organic fertilizers. These practices help to conserve soil moisture, reduce soil erosion, and improve soil fertility, making it possible for crops to thrive even in harsh climatic conditions.
- Provision of extension services: The government is providing extension services to farmers to help them adopt best practices that promote the adoption of climate-smart crops. These services include training on crop management, pest and disease control, and post-harvest handling.
The adoption of climate-smart crops such as quinoa, millet, sorghum, and cassava is critical in addressing the effects of climate change in Kenya. The government’s efforts to promote the adoption of these crops, invest in research and development, promote sustainable agricultural practices, and provide extension services will help farmers adapt to the changing climate and ensure food security for all.
The commercialization of quinoa in Kenya presents a great opportunity for farmers to tap into the high-value market and earn good returns. With its drought tolerance, year-round yields, and high nutritional value, quinoa is an ideal crop for arid regions and can promote food security and fight malnutrition. The Kenyan government’s efforts to address the effects of climate change through the adoption of climate-smart crops will help farmers adapt to changing climatic conditions and ensure food security.