- First time BT cotton is being launched in Kenya after a 20-year research period.
Kenya has begun the commercial cultivation of Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) cotton hybrid following governments’ approval of the genetically improved seed aimed at revitalizing cotton, textile, and apparel sectors.
The Agricultural ministry on Monday through its Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya planted the first Bt cottonseed with farmers at Alupe University College, Busia County.
Trials for the viability to test the viability of the seeds were conducted in Bura, Mwea, Perkerra, Kwale, Matuga, Kibos, Alupe and Kerio Valley.
The planting in Busia marks 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.
“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,” Munya said as he launched the seeds.
“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.
The current production of conventional cotton stands at 572kg per hectare. The availability of hybrid seeds is set to raise this to 2,500kg per hectare because of its high resistance to pests.
The government targets to have over 200,000 acres under commercial BT cotton cultivation by 2022 creating over 25,000 jobs for Kenyans along the value chain.
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.
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.
Agriculture is the primary driver of Kenya’s economy, contributing 33.3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and another 57 per cent of GDP indirectly through linkages with other sectors of the economy.