AGRICULTURE IN CENTRAL KENYA
FOCUS: Horticulture; Dairy; Coffee; Cereals & Tubers; Floriculture
Agriculture is the back bone of Central Kenya’s economy. The region is blessed with good weather, reliable rainfall and good soils that support the growth of a number of cereals, pulses, coffee and fruits and vegetables.
The region is the leading producer of coffee, vegetables, milk and a major producer of tea, cereals and fruits for local consumption and for export.
Central Kenya is the leading producer of fruits, vegetables and flowers for local consumption and export. The region is the leading producer of vegetables (French beans, peas), potatoes, fruits (e.g. avocadoes and mangoes) and has a thriving floriculture industry.
According to the Kenya Economic Survey 2014, Kenya exported 394,387 tonnes of horticulture produce worth KSh 89.3 billion in 2013, a majority of which was produced in Naivasha and Central Kenya region.
The country produced about 45,000 tonnes of French beans in 2012, according to the KHCP Competitiveness Study 2014, a majority of the quantity being grown in Central Kenya.
Fresh peas have shown a great rise in production, reaching about 230,000 tonnes in 2012. Avocado production in concentrated in Central Kenya region, with production figures of about 180,000 tonnes in 2012 according to the KHCP study.
Dairy and Livestock
Central Kenya is a leading producer of milk in Kenya. The region is a major keeper of cattle, sheep and goats. According to the Kenya Livestock Census of 2009, the former Central province had a total of 1.1 million cattle, 660,000 sheep, 531,000 goats and 92,000 pigs.
The region leads in the percentage of farmers who keep improved dairy animals in the country with about 80% of farmers keeping the improved varieties, according to the Tegemeo Institute.
The region is also a leader in commercial pig production, keeping about 20% of the country’s total pig population.
It is also home to a number of dairy cooperatives and milk processing dairies.
It is projected that a number of these cooperatives will commence milk processing in a few years, in tune with the rest that have made the move to value addition, as the county governments move in to improve the returns from dairy farming in the region.
The lower Machakos County, with its marginal weather, is home to a number of ranches mainly for beef production, but is increasingly adopting dairy farming
Coffee and Tea
Coffee was introduced to Kenya through the former White Highlands, which included Central Kenya. The production of coffee in the region is characterized by large estates and smaller scale farmers of various farm sizes. There are a number of cooperatives in the region
Although coffee production volumes have been declining from the peak of 130,000 tonnes in the late 1980s to the current volumes which are below 50,000 tonnes per annum, Central Kenya still produces the bulk of the coffee in Kenya due to its acidic soils and adequate rainfall.
Tea production is also an important economic activity in the region. These regions include the areas around Mt. Kenya, the Aberdares, and the Nyambene hills in the Central Kenya.
Kenya produced 444 million kilos of tea in 2014, with a significant portion of this coming from the Central Kenya region.
There are a number of coffee factories, a majority of which are owned by cooperatives. Private coffee millers including Sasini are also active in the region, adding extra value to the produce for local and export market.
Central Kenya is the leading producer of commercial poultry in Kenya. The region, according to the Kenya Livestock Census of 2009, had over 2.9 million commercial chickens, 34% of the country’s total.
The region’s poultry sector is dominated by small-scale farmers, but also has a number of commercial scale poultry farms.
Farmers in the region are well placed with ease of access to the fast food and hotel market in the major towns of Nyeri, Meru, Machakos and Nairobi.
Maize, being a staple in Kenya, is grown quite abundantly in Central Kenya region, with a production volume of 134,000 tonnes in 2008, according to FOODSEC.
The region also cultivates substantial quantities of wheat in the Timau area near Nanyuki. Rice is also grown under irrigation in the Mwea Irrigation Scheme.
In terms of value addition, a number of cereal mills are located in the region, mainly serving the local market and the high population market of Nairobi with maize meal, milled rice and wheat flour and their by-products.