Pyrethrum farming in Kenya has been a significant contributor to the country’s economy for decades. However, the sector has experienced a decline in recent years, leading to a decrease in the number of farmers and the area under cultivation. Despite this setback, there is hope for the revival of the pyrethrum sector, with both the government and private sector investing in the industry.
Pyrethrum is a hardy crop that is grown in various parts of Kenya, with most farmers owning less than one acre of land. The plant produces flowers that are harvested for their insecticidal properties, making pyrethrum a valuable commodity in the global market. However, the sector has faced various challenges, including low productivity, poor quality seeds, and inadequate extension services.
The government and private sector have recognized the potential of the pyrethrum sector and are taking steps to revive the industry. Efforts to increase the production of high-quality pyrethrum seeds, provide extension services, and offer financial support to farmers are underway. These initiatives aim to transform the pyrethrum sector and improve the livelihoods of farmers in Kenya.
History of Pyrethrum Farming in Kenya
Pyrethrum farming was introduced in Kenya by white settlers in 1928, imported from Europe. Initially, it was grown in large-scale farms, but nowadays it is widely cultivated by small-scale farmers. Kenyan pyrethrum was of very high quality, quickly replacing Japanese pyrethrum on the world market by around 1941.
The crop was grown in highland areas above 1,800m in Rift Valley, Central, Nyanza, and Eastern regions in over 24 counties. Rift Valley is the highest pyrethrum producer in Kenya, accounting for 80% of the production. Pyrethrum is a hardy crop that continuously produces flowers for 10 months annually.
Pyrethrum production reached its peak in Kenya at 18,000 tonnes in 1993, providing a livelihood to more than two million people. However, in the mid-1990s, the industry started to decline due to various factors such as mismanagement, low prices, and competition from synthetic insecticides.
Efforts have been made to revive the pyrethrum industry in Kenya, with the government and private sector working together to support small-scale farmers. The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) has been conducting research and providing training to farmers on best practices for pyrethrum farming.
Also Read: Pyrethrum Farming In Kenya
Current State of Pyrethrum Farming in Kenya
Pyrethrum farming in Kenya has been facing a decline over the past few years. According to the Pyrethrum Board of Kenya, the national average production of pyrethrum flowers is currently at 500 MT, compared to a high of 18,000 MT in 1992. The current acreage is 3,000 acres compared to over 20,000 acres in 1992. This decline in production can be attributed to various factors, including:
- Competition from other crops that are more profitable, such as tea and coffee
- Lack of access to credit and financing for farmers to invest in their farms
- Pests and diseases that affect the quality and quantity of pyrethrum flowers
- Lack of modern technologies and practices to improve yields and quality
Despite these challenges, there have been efforts to revive the pyrethrum sector in Kenya. The government, through the Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya (PPCK), has been providing support to farmers by offering training, financing, and market access. The PPCK pays farmers Ksh. 100 to 375 per kg based on pyrethrins content, which is determined after delivery of the dry flowers.
Additionally, there have been initiatives to introduce new plant-based synergists and carriers in formulations to make pyrethrum suitable for organic farming. This can open up new markets for pyrethrum farmers who want to produce organic pyrethrins. With the right support and investments, pyrethrum farming in Kenya can be revived and transformed to provide sustainable livelihoods for millions of people who depend on it.
Challenges Facing Pyrethrum Farming in Kenya
Despite its potential to contribute to economic growth in Kenya, pyrethrum farming faces several challenges that have led to a decline in production and export earnings. Some of these challenges include:
- Low-quality seedlings: Farmers have raised concerns over the quality of seedlings available in the market, noting that they are not good enough for commercial pyrethrum farming.
- Lack of access to credit: Most small-scale farmers lack access to credit facilities, which limits their ability to invest in their farms and increase production.
- Poor farming practices: Many farmers lack the skills and knowledge needed to practice modern and sustainable farming methods, which leads to low yields and poor quality pyrethrum.
- Outdated processing technology: The pyrethrum processing factories in Kenya use outdated technology, which leads to low-quality pyrethrum extracts that do not meet international standards.
- Competition from synthetic insecticides: The use of synthetic insecticides has increased over the years, leading to a decline in demand for pyrethrum extracts.
To address these challenges, the government and other stakeholders in the pyrethrum industry need to invest in research and development to improve seed quality, provide credit facilities to farmers, and promote modern and sustainable farming practices. There is also a need to upgrade the processing technology and promote the use of pyrethrum extracts in organic farming.
Government Interventions in Pyrethrum Farming in Kenya
The Kenyan government has recognized the potential of the pyrethrum sub-sector and has implemented various initiatives to revive it. Here are some of the interventions:
- Funding: The government has injected Ksh 500 million to help revive the pyrethrum sector, which includes providing seedlings, fertilizers, and other farm inputs to farmers.
- Policy formulation: The government has developed policies to support pyrethrum farming, such as the Pyrethrum Bill 2018, which aims to provide a legal framework for the management and regulation of the sub-sector.
- Partnerships: The government has partnered with various stakeholders, such as the Pyrethrum Processing Company of Kenya (PPCK), to provide technical support and training to farmers. The PPCK has also pledged to pay farmers Ksh 100 to 375 per kg based on pyrethrins content.
- Research and development: The government has invested in research and development to improve pyrethrum farming techniques, such as developing disease-resistant varieties and promoting integrated pest management practices.
These interventions are expected to improve the productivity and profitability of pyrethrum farming in Kenya, which will benefit smallholder farmers and the economy as a whole.
Future of Pyrethrum Farming in Kenya
Pyrethrum farming in Kenya has the potential to become a major source of income for farmers and a significant contributor to the country’s foreign exchange earnings. The enactment of the Pyrethrum Act 2012 and the allocation of funds by the government and county governments towards the revival of the pyrethrum sector are positive steps towards achieving this goal.
With the increased demand for organic products, there is a growing market for pyrethrum-based insecticides and other products. This presents an opportunity for Kenyan farmers to tap into this market and earn a premium for their produce.
However, the success of the pyrethrum sector will depend on several factors. One of the key challenges facing the sector is the lack of access to quality planting materials. Farmers need access to high-quality pyrethrum seedlings that are disease-resistant and have high yields. The government and other stakeholders need to invest in research and development to develop new pyrethrum varieties that are adapted to local conditions and have high yields.
Another challenge facing the sector is the lack of infrastructure to support pyrethrum farming. There is a need to invest in irrigation systems, storage facilities, and transport infrastructure to enable farmers to access markets and store their produce. The government and other stakeholders need to work together to provide the necessary infrastructure to support the growth of the pyrethrum sector.
In conclusion, the future of pyrethrum farming in Kenya is bright. With the right investments in research and development, infrastructure, and access to markets, pyrethrum farming has the potential to become a major source of income for farmers and a significant contributor to the country’s foreign exchange earnings.
Pyrethrum farming in Kenya has had its ups and downs over the years. The crop was once a major foreign earner for the country, contributing approximately KSh. 2.1 billion in 1996. However, due to various challenges such as lack of buyers, the number of farmers dwindled from 200,000 in the 1980s to 29,000 in June 2009. The area under the crop also dropped from 40,000 ha during the 1980s to 4,000 ha in 2009.
Despite the challenges, there is hope for the sector. The government and county governments have allocated funds for the purchase and distribution of pyrethrum seedlings. For instance, Nakuru County has allocated Sh50 million for this purpose in the current financial year. Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya has also revealed plans to revive pyrethrum farming in Kenya, with KSh 40 million released to purchase pyrethrum seedlings for farmers in 18 high potential counties.
Pyrethrum is a hardy crop that continuously produces flowers for 10 months annually. It grows well in cool temperatures and high rainfall areas which occur in high altitude areas ranging from 1500-3000m. With the right support, including access to markets, training on best practices, and research to develop new products, the sector has the potential to transform livelihoods for smallholder farmers in Kenya.
Sources: Beckley, V. A., C. B. Gnadinger, and Frank Ireland. “Pyrethrum flowers Kenya, a better source.” Industrial & Engineering Chemistry 30.7 (1938): 835-838. Link: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/ie50343a024
Thijssen, Rik. “Natural insecticide pyrethrum.” LEISA-LEUSDEN- 13 (1997): 22-23. Link: http://www.metafro.be/leisa/1997/13-4-22.pdf