It is an age-old practice that, after cutting their maize crop mid-November, Western Kenyan farmers stacked up their the crop on the farm in order for it to dry. The stacked maize normally stays on the farm for up to three weeks, before farmers remove it and shell it for further drying.
For years, this practice has worked for Andabwa and millions of other maize farmers across the East African. But ongoing heavy rains in Kenya have disrupted the maize drying tradition, worsening farmers’ post-harvest challenges.
The unlucky growers have had their produce washed away by floods or the farms are flooded as the lucky ones struggle to dry the produce amid rains and little sun. Most farmers in Kenya rely on the sun to dry their grains since they do not have artificial dryers. The farmers, therefore, usually need about a month of dry weather for the maize to dry and have the recommended 13 percent moisture content.
“This year farmers planted in May due to delayed rains instead of March. Most of them have been harvesting in November, instead of the normal September. This is the reason the rains have caught up with them,” said Bernard Moina, an agriculture officer in Trans Nzoia, western Kenya.
Moina observed that a good number of farmers in the breadbasket region will lose their harvest due to post-harvest challenges.
“I have visited several farmers and they are either struggling to remove their maize from the farms or dry. The situation is worse because the roads are impassable making farmers rely on manual labor,” he said.
Kenya had projected to harvest some 44 million 90 kg bags of the staple this season but with the rains which will heighten post-harvest losses, coupled with fall armyworm attack and a dry spell early in the year, chief administrative secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Andrew Tuimur estimated the harvest would drop to 33 million bags.