Kenya: Turkana Farmers Embrace Groundnuts Production to Boost Income, Nutrition

It’s 11 a.m. Tuesday on the Nanyee Irrigation scheme, and even the harsh sun on the 230-acre farm isn’t enough to force Mrs. Agnes Esinyen to head home or take cover under an acacia and Mathing canopy.

“The newly introduced peanuts that are in the stabilization stage are motivating me,” Yesenin tells the nation as it clears its green crops.

She was initially taught how to grow, dispose and harvest them with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Program, Egerton University and the Turkana Provincial Government.

The crop she planted in late September, she says, is the most recent on the farm next to the Turkwill River.

The farm was established in 1982 as part of a discontinued project but in 2019 the World Food Program rehabilitated it.

Like more than 500 other farmers across the county who have now adopted two improved types of groundnuts developed by Egerton University – Ndufu (EUGN 1) which is large seed with a high oil content and Mwangaza (EUGN 2), a red color – she said they were lacking into a highly nutritious crop for efficient crop rotation.

Since I planted peanuts, the autumn army worms whose cravings destroyed the corn did not see the corn before it turned into peanuts.

“Before I took the opportunity to grow peanuts, I would travel to Lodwar to buy them because they were some of the nutritious foods we were advised to feed our children with. I feel comfortable having them on my farm,” said Ms. Esenin.

In the village, she is not only a farmer but also a trained community facilitator who has now trained 90 farmers.

There is a local market ready for the crops, she said, where a kilogram of raw groundnuts is being sold for Kenyan shillings 90.

Mrs. Margaret Aquitila, another farmer, said the soil is virgin and they don’t use any fertilizer.

Ms. Aquitila noted that because peanuts are a legume, they release a high-quality organic matter into the soil that facilitates soil nutrients by partnering with nitrogen-fixing bacteria to reduce weeds and enrich the soil.

Michael Ngoto, an agronomist, said they already have a private investor who, under a contract with Turkana farmers, is seeking to buy 6,000 tons per year.

Mr. Ngutu said that the main challenge for Insta Products EPZ Limited in the peanut value chain across the country is to get the right quality of seeds which is why the company had to import from Argentina.

Aflatoxin Free Seeds

“Currently, FAO has engaged and supported 500 farmers in terms of training. We expect to scale up the project so that in the next four years we will have a sustainable 18,000 hectares peanut farm project with 15,000 farmers directly involved to make Turkana a major producing county in Kenya” .

He said Insta Products EPZ is seeking to spend 23 billion shillings buying Turkana peanuts.

With funding from the European Union and the IKEA Foundation, FAO is investing Sh315 million in the peanut project after making sure it can be grown in the county.

“Through a partnership with Egerton University and the Kenya Seed Company, we are preparing farmers for production for this market. The university will act as our own research institute to ensure we have the best aflatoxin-free seeds and the best quality training for our target farmers,” said Mr. Ngutu.

FAO Representative in Kenya, Ms. Carla Mukafe, said Egerton University will ensure the sustainability of the project by breeding certified seeds.

She confirmed that some farmers planted 10 acres of peanuts during the long rainy season in 2021, and harvested about seven metric tons, which were sold in the markets and consumed at the family level. Egerton also bought 250 kg as seeds.

“The project is not only an investment in order to ensure food security in Turkana, but it will also enhance nutrition as well as ensure that farmers have access to income to improve their livelihoods,” she said.