AFTER many years of waiting, Kenya has finally commenced commercial farming of Bt cotton heralding a new dawn for cotton farmers in the country. Recently, the country planted its first Bt cotton seed in an open field outside confinement during a historic launch held at Alupe University, western Kenya.
The country now becomes the seventh African country to commercialise the genetically modified (GM) cotton. The planting marks the first of 1,000 on-farm demonstration plots to be planted in 23 counties for training at least 40,000 farmers prior to full commercial rollout in the country. This latest development follows a Cabinet approval for commercial farming of Bt cotton granted on December 19, 2019.
Speaking during the launch, Kenya’s Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya revealed that the Government targets to have over 200,000 acres under commercial Bt cotton cultivation by 2022 creating over 25,000 jobs for Kenyans along the value chain. “These job opportunities will be in cultivation, processing or trading in locally manufactured garments and clothes,” said the CS. “Cultivation of Bt cotton by our farmers will guarantee a constant supply of raw materials to ginneries and cotton processing industries thus supporting value addition and job creation up the value chain,” he added.
The Government banks on Bt cotton commercialization to revive the textile and apparel industry and increase the contribution of the manufacturing sector to the country’s GDP from the current 9.2 percent to 20 percent by 2022, a significant step in achieving the ‘Big Four’ Agenda, Kenya’s economic development blueprint. The crop’s commercial farming is a culmination of a process that started in 2001 when the first application to introduce Bt cotton was made. The first transgenic cotton confined field trials were planted in 2004 and completed in 2010.
In September 2018, ISAAA AfriCenter organised a study tour of India’s Bt cotton program for Kenyan policy makers and other senior government officials from various regulatory and cotton value chain players. During the tour, the policy makers promised to fasttrack the growing of the GM crop in the country. Bt cotton is currently planted in 15 countries globally covering an area of 24 million hectares. The top three leading Bt cotton producers are India (11.6 Million hectares), USA (5.06 Million Hectares) and China (2.93 Million Hectares). Kenya is now the latest entrant joining South Africa, Sudan, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nigeria and eSwatini in planting the GM cotton in Africa.