Agriculture remains the backbone of the Lamu County economy. It is the single most important sector in the economy; the main contributors to employment include agriculture, fisheries and livestock production. Given its importance, the performance of the sector is therefore reflected in the performance of the whole Lamu economy. The development of agriculture is also important for poverty reduction since most of the vulnerable groups like pastoralists, fishermen, the landless, and subsistence farmers, also depend on agriculture as their main source of livelihoods. Growth in the sector is therefore expected to have a greater impact on a larger section of the population than any other sector. The agricultural sector comprises the following programmes: administration and support services, crop development and irrigation and drainage.
The development of the sector is therefore important for the development of the economy as a whole. Thus, there are many players and stakeholders in the sector due to its role in the economy and its rural-based nature that touches the livelihoods of many people. The Lamu County Government is strong committed to increasing food security for its people. The Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation is currently implementing the following programmes: Promotion of mechanized Agriculture, Provision of relief seeds to vulnerable farmers, Promotion of Irrigation based Farming, Water Harvesting through Water Pan, Provision of Agricultural Extension, Training and Accommodation services, Demonstration Farm Fund (DFF), Promotion of agro-processing and value addition technologies and innovations, Promotion of Cashew nuts Program, Promotion of Nerica Rice Production . The ministry in collaboration with other national programs is promoting enterprise based project like NAAIAP, SHEP-UP, CODA, NMK, Coconut Development Authority among others.
The County is endowed with vast agricultural opportunities which include: big tracks of land which can be used for agricultural production, highly experienced staff that will help in providing extension services strategically to trigger growth in agriculture, highly enterprising society of herders and farmers, ready market for agricultural products, completion of LAPSSET will enable ease of export of agricultural products this will make Lamu have comparative economic advantage in export over other counties in Kenya, vast irrigation potential in the Tana basins, Lake Kenyatta and Lake MOA areas, value addition potential of crops such as cashew nut, coconut, fruits and vegetables remains largely untapped, vast opportunities are opening up in the production of biofuels from sugar cane, maize, millet, sorghum, jatropha and other oil-bearing seeds.
Despite the significant contribution of agriculture to Lamu County economy, the sector is facing major challenges which include: insufficient and poorly maintained transport and market infrastructure for handling food products, low agricultural output and productivity resulting from low adoption of appropriate technologies such as high-yielding crop varieties, inadequate application of fertilizer and manure and high cost of inputs and productive resources such as credit and irrigation infrastructure, staff shortage, transport for extension staff, limited access to markets and narrow market destinations for various commodities the county is capable of producing and poor access to credit by producers in spite of a well-developed financial sector.Due to arsonist attacks in Lamu West sub County some of the farmers left their farms for security reasons and their crops were either destroyed by wild animals or chocked by weeds. Poor price due to insecurity which has scared away buyers. This has a negative impact of demoralizing the farmers and denying farming the needed capital for production. It is therefore, imperative that this interruption is removed so that the sector can go back to increasing growth path.
Lamu County falls within four agricultural eco-zones ranging from Coastal lowland to the ranching zone. These are the CL3 (Coconut-Cassava zone), CL4 (Cashew nut-Cassava zone), CL5 (Livestock-Millet zone) and CL6 (Ranching zone)Soils in the County are sandy, sandy loams in nature and pockets of clayey and loamy soils exist within the region. In this sub-humid region of coastal Kenya, the rainfall received is enough to sustain crop production during the long rains (LR) season. In Lamu County, crops are grown by small-scale farmers in the whole Lamu County under rain fed conditions where annual rainfall is ranging from 540 mm to 1,000 mm per year. In the County about 80% of the crops are grown during long rains while the remaining 20% grown during short rains. However, short rains are not reliable though farmers persistently plant crops in every season.
In Lamu County, most of the crops are produced by small scale holders in a mixed farming system. The main food crops grown include maize, sorghum, cow pees, green grams, d. lablab, rice and cassava. The cash crops are cotton, sim sim, coconut, cashew nuts, bixa, vegetables and mangoes. Horticulture is also a major enterprise in the County producing vegetables such as amaranth, kales, tomatoes and capsicums. Fruits crop such citrus and bananas for both local market and other markets in the coast province.
However, some of the challenges faced by agriculture sub-sector in the County are:-
- Majority of the farm produce are sold in raw form both locally and outside as there are no processing plants in the County. Land preparation depend on more than 40 farm tractors coming all the way from Meru and Kajiado to support less than 20 farm tractors in the County. Therefore, over 60% of the revenue generated from farm tractor service on land preparation goes outside the County
- Farming is not throughout the year as Irrigation potential has not yet been exploited fully, leaving Lamu County depending on rain fed agriculture to spur development. Limited number of farmers and stakeholders accessing modern farming technologies at Lake Kenyatta ATC due to limited space.
- Drought experienced in the County has negative effect on food security and nutritional status to people between 3000 to 10,000 people.
- High cost of farm inputs highly affects resource poor farmer’s food security at farm level. To ensure Lamu County continues being food secured, create employment, spur income, manage natural resource sustainably and help fight poverty among its people, -agricultural sector needs to unlock the enormous potential existing in the County.
Agricultural Programmes to be Implemented in 2014/15 Financial Year Promotion of mechanized Agriculture
- The county has established Tractor Hiring Services Unit started working on June 2014. In its first year of operation the Lamu County Government purchased 5 Tractors and 5 disk ploughs worthy kshs. 18,260,000. The tractors are managed by AMS unit located in Mpeketoni. Temporary 5 plant operators and 5 assistants have been approved by the County. At first the demand for the tractors service was low due to insecurity caused by invasion of assailants in Mpeketoni and Witu. The ploughing services are currently being offered at a cost of Kshs. 2,200 per acre compared to Kshs. 2,500 per acre being charged by private tractor operators. The peak demand for ploughing services usually occurs in March, April, May and June during long rains and September and September and October during short rains.The expected area to plough by the tractor is 6000 acres for about 3,000 farmers raising a gross revenue of Ksh 13,200,000 by December 2014. This is less total expenditure on fuel, lubricants, allowances for plant operators and their assistants and other costs. Lamu County Government through Ministry of Agriculture& Irrigation is intending to purchase 6 Tractors and 6 disk ploughs worthy kshs for KES 25,783,700 by the end financial year.
Provision of Relief Seeds To Vulnerable Farmers.
- Lamu County Government through Ministry of Agriculture& Irrigation is intending to purchase maize seeds worthy KES 4,000,000 for 3,400 farmers by the end financial year from Kenya seed Company or any other Seeds Company. Once purchased they will be distributed in March 2015 to Resource Poor Farmers in the County and each farmer will get 8 kg enough for one acre. This will result to additional 1360 ha under maize production from where 35, 000 bags of 90 kg will be realized.
Promotion of Irrigation based Farming
- Ministry of Agriculture& Irrigation is in the process of establishing two irrigation sites; MUUM Irrigation Self Help Group in Mpeketoni and IBSA Self Help Group in Witu Irrigation sites at a cost of KES , 6,100,000. Each Irrigation Projects covers 20 acres under vegetables by at least 80 farmers. The vegetables produced will be sold and the income going to the respective group. Also Redcross in collaboration with Ministry of Agriculture& Irrigation has established Mangai Food Security irrigation Project which is now operational.
Water Harvesting through Water Pan Excavation
- Ministry of Agriculture& Irrigation is intending to excavate a waterpan with a capacity 20,000 m3 for Maleli Self Help Group in Witu which has 30 members at a cost of KES 4,624,000. A drip irrigation system for growing vegetable will be installed. A nursery of 5,000 fruit tree seedlings will also be established. The seedlings will be raised and planted by members. The Survey of the waterpan site has been done, Engineering designs, bill of quantities, EIA have are ready.
Provision of Agricultural Extension
- Ministry of Agriculture& Irrigation has a target of reaching 25,000 farmers through different extension approaches to enhance adoption of new farming technologies to ensure increase of production and income at farm level.
Training and Accommodation services
- Lake Kenyatta Agricultural Training Centre was officially handed over as from 28th February, 2014 as devolved unit to Lamu County Government. The ATC continued operating Training and Accommodation services (TRAC) and also Demonstration Farm Fund (DFF). Revenue generated during the financial year 2013/ 2014 with effect from the month of March 2014 was deposited in the County revenue Fund. The Institution is supposed to generate KES 1.50 for every KES 1 invested at the Institute. This financial year a total of KES 2,082,200 has been set aside for the ATC activities. Other programmes include: i. Promotion of agro-processing and value addition technologies and innovations ii. Promotion of Cashew nuts Program iii. Promotion of Nerica Rice Production
ACHIEVEMENTS: AGRICULTURAL AND IRRIGATION
• Agricultural mechanization services
• Purchase of certified seeds
• Purchase of subsidized fertilizer
• Construction of grain storage facilities
• Establishment of irrigation projects
• Purchase of fiber boat
• Coconut expansion program
• Purchase of motorcycles for extension officers
• Promotion of mechanized agricultural
• Provision of relief seeds
• Tissue cultural bananas
• Construction of water pan for harvesting water
• Introduction of irrigated based farming
• Cotton promotion
• Promotion of cashew nuts programme.
• Agricultural extension research and training. (Daily routine)
• Construction of agricultural office block at faza.
• Provision of subsidised fertilizer