We (the youth) often hear tales from our grandparents of the days when the rains were predictable, rained in sufficient amount, and drought was uncommon. In a nutshell what the grannies are trying to say, is the weather has become worse. It either does not rain for an extended period, and when it finally rains, it is too much and only for a short period of time, such that the harvest from the fields is too low.
From an academic argument, we understand this as climate change, whether is real or fake, that is something for the political and economics pundits to settle. However, agriculture business at the grass roots is not as usual.
A farmer looking to eke out a living from their farms must use new (sometimes genetically modified) breeds of plants or livestock that are engineered to flourish in the current state of climate. Coconut farmers at the Kenyan coasts make the perfect case study of agriculture innovation addressing climate and economic change.
The indigenious breed of coconut tree takes an average of six years to fully mature and starts producing the nuts. Even so, it only produced about 50 nuts per year. Across the Indian Ocean, their counterparts in India are using hybrid coconut that matures in two and a half years. The tree/palm produces about 250 nuts per year.
When you do the math, the Indian coconut farmers get higher return on investment within a shorter payback period compared to their Kenyan counterparts. That means, the farmers have more units to sell in any given year, thus higher revenue.
The complete opposite is true for coconut farmers in Kenya, and when you add it unreliable weather, the time the coconut tree takes to mature could be longer and yields per year lower.
Well, the Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (Kalro) has imported a consignment of 6,000 hybrid coconut seeds from India. The ship with the consignment has already arrived at the port city of Mombasa awaiting Kalro to dispatch the seeds to 120 acres farms in Kwale County.
Though Kalro will be undertaking a test program to populate the hybrid coconut seeds supplies in Kenya. The coconut farmers are already enthusiastic to try out the new coconut seeds from India, with the hopes of higher turnover and sales margin from their farms.
The hybrid coconut breed from India are also product specific; there are those for oil, coconut water, fiber content, and palm wine production among others. On the other hand, the indigenous breed main product happen by chance. The new breeds will now help farmers decide on specific trait they want from their coconut tree with reference what fetches the highest price and has highest demand in the country.