Maize Farming in Kenya

All you need to know about maize farming
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An annual crop of the grass family with a botanical name zea may.

Brought by Portuguese traders to the East African coast in the 18th century.

Single most extensively grown crop.

Main Growing Areas

Transnzoia, Nakuru, Bungoma, and Uasin Gishu districts.

Conditions Favouring Maize Growing In Kenya

Physical Requirements

  • Warm temperatures (above 15◦c).
  • High annual rainfall (635-1145mm)
  • Deep well drained fertile soil with abundant amount of nitrogen.
  • Undulating landscape to allow use of machines.
  • Lower altitudes of about 1800m or below sea level.

Human Requirements

  1. Abundant labour for preparation of land, sowing, weeding, shelling and packing.
  2. A good transport network to enable farmers to transport harvested grain to millers and buying centres.
  3. A good and sufficient storage facility for the grain after it has been harvested and before it is sold.
  4. Availability of capital to pay for labour, buy inputs and pay for transportation of grain to the market.

Cultivation of Maize

  • Holes for planting seeds are dug in rows about 1m apart using hoes, pangas or tractor-driven planters.
  • Fertilizer is put in holes and mixed with soil.
  • Maize is planted by hand or tractor driven planters.
  • Nitrate fertilizers top dressing is applied when plants reach knee length.
  • The maize is thinned to remove weak seedlings when it is about 15cm high and weeded.
  • Maize takes 4-12 months to mature depending on altitude and seed variety.
  • Maize is left to ripen and dry when standing on the farm.
maize farming in kenya
Photo by Rajesh S Balouria on Pexels.com

Harvesting of Maize

  • The cobs are picked by hand and put in sacks.
  • Maize cobs are then shelled by beating using heavy sticks or machines.
  • It’s then packed in sacks ready for sale to consumers, millers or NCPB.

Processing of Maize

  • At the mill maize is put on trays to sieve to remove undesired matter e.g. rock particles.
  • It’s then passed through the milling machine which crushes it into flour of various grades.
  • The floor is then packed in small packets and sacks according to desired weight.

Uses of Maize

  • Used as food for githeri and flour for ugali and porridge.
  • Grains are also used in the manufacture of animal feeds e.g. maize jam.
  • Tender maize plants are chopped and mixed with molasses to make silage for livestock.
  • Used to make salad oil for cooking, industrial alcohol and starch.
  • Stalks and cobs are used as organic manure and to provide domestic fuel.

Marketing of Maize

  • Mainly sold by NCPB.
  • Farmers also sell directly to consumers and millers.

Importance to Kenya’s Economy

  • Saves foreign exchange by avoiding importing maize all the time.
  • Promotes growth of industries where it,s used as raw material e.g. milling and corn oil industries.
  • Has created employment e.g. for farm workers, milling workers.Mocks,
  • Provides income to farmers raising their standard of living.
  • Government earns revenue from taxes levied on maize products such as corn oil and alcohol.

Problems Facing Maize Farmers in Kenya

  • Pests such as stalk borers which penetrate to the centre of the plant.
  • Diseases such as white leaf blight which causes oval, grey lesions on the leaves.
  • Reduction of maize prices in the local market caused by irregular importation of maize which discourages the farmers.
  • Inadequate capital on the farmer part to buy inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and insect sides.
  • Soil exhaustion due prolonged planting of maize leading to poor yields.
  • Exploitation of farmers by middle men who buy their produce at throw away prices making the farmers unable to meet production costs.
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