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Fungal disease threatens onion farming

15 March 2013, 18:37 Mwangi Karanja

Onion farmers at Ortum in Pokot Central District risk incurring massive losses following an invasion of their crops by a fungal
disease that has affected more than 100 acres of crop.

The infection that has mostly affected Serelwa area has left the farmers with little hope since it has proven to be a hard nut to crack with their preventive and treatment measures proofing ineffective.

“This infection has cost us a lot of money since we have tried various methods in our efforts to eradicate the infection but none of the measures has been successful," said Lukia Lokitam, a farmer.

The farmers are further expressing fears of a looming economic disaster for them since they majorly depend on the sale of the crop as the main income earner to sustain their livelihoods.

“This year is proofing very challenging for us. For instance my three acre piece of land normally produces more than 30 tonnes of onions in a year but I doubt if I will raise five tonnes this year due to the disease,” said Lokitam.

They also said they had incurred a lot of costs before the disease struck just as they approached the harvesting stage.

“We used a lot of money in land preparation, purchase of seeds, disease control chemicals and fertilizer for the sake or realizing
better but it now seems we may not get anything out of it since the infection has gone beyond treatment,” said Karatulei Lokwang’a.

Nguria Lima said it was distressing since he depends on the crop to feed and pay school fees for his six children.

“I don’t know what I am going to do because I have no other source of income apart from these onions that I have been planting yearly since 1998 when the crop was introduced to this region, said Ng’uria.

The farmers called on Ministry of Agriculture officials in the region to come to their rescue by ascertaining what the disease is and in addition conduct soil tests to recommend them the most resistant seed as they place hopes in next season's harvest.

They also decried the poor state of the Ortum-Sondanyi road network which they mainly use for transportation of their produce saying it is in deplorable condition which makes them incur a lot of cots as they try to access Ortum Market.

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