June 17, 2024

Agriculture and Food Authority Launch Bixa Handbook Manual

Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) officials launching Bixa production handbook at Kenya school of Government Training on December 14 2023 (Photo By Mwakera Mwajefa)

By Mwakera Mwajefa

Email, thecoastnewspaper2gmail.com

Bixa farmers from three counties of the Coast region are counting their days to improved livelihoods if the draft Crops (Bixa) regulations 2023 are passed in National Assembly into law next year.

In a public consultative forum held at Kenya School of Government, Mombasa on December 14, 2023, the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) took bixa stakeholders and farmers through the regulations to ensure they are in synch with them before submission to NA.

The regulations will ensure bixa, that for long has been neglected by subsequent administrations since independence, remains a vital contributor to the country’s economy.

AFA listed 10 functions to the participants that it intends to carry out as a way of regulating the processing, the marketing, the grading, the storing, the collecting, the transporting and warehousing of bixa and its products.

This will ensure major bixa producing counties of Kwale, Kilifi and Lamu and other potential ones of Tana River, Taita Taveta, Makueni, Machakos, Kitui and Baringo get value of their produce.

Responding to presentations by AFA and legal minds, the stakeholders and farmers raised two fundamental concerns on proposed levies and tribunal in case of a dispute.

After a brief deliberation, the Miraa, Pyrethrum and other Industrial Crops directorate agreed to factor in their concerns for the benefits of industrial actors and farmers.

In a speech read on his behalf, state department for agriculture principal secretary Paul Ronoh says bixa is one of the recently scheduled value chain crops gazetted under Notice 2164 for its economical importance.

“This underscores the commitment of the government to develop and promote the bixa industry and also recognise it faces deficits in extension materials, investment in research, legislation and institutional set up.”

In order to mitigate challenges, the government has put efforts in various interventions such as production of a Bixa Production Handbook to provide farmers’ solutions to the industry.

“This document (handbook) is an integral part of National Export Development and Promotion Strategy aligned to the Agricultural Sector 2019-2029, Bottomup Economic Transformation and Agenda (BeTA) and Kenya Kwanza manifesto.”

AFA board chair Cornelly Serem says bixa industry is a crucial source of livelihoods for thousand of households through production, harvesting, processing, transportation and marketing in the Coast region.

“The commodity is traded and consumed in its processed form both locally and internationally. This makes it a significant enterprise to Kenya’s economy.”

The industry, according to him, has the potential to guarantee employment and economic stability in the country.

AFA director-general Willis Audi expresses concern that bixa subsector has relied on indigenous knowledge since its introduction in the early 1960s from Brazil.

Despite the crop being a economic driver, Audi believes there is an urgency of changing the farmers’ knowledge and skills to incorporate quality production and productivity of the crop.

“The manual (handbook) provides information on sustainable bixa farming systems, soil and water conservation. This document has illustrations on various production stages to aid the users.”

AFA-Miraa, Pyrethrum and other Industrial Crops director Felix Mutwiri says the handbook will be a game changer for bixa farming as it has incorporated indigenous and modern researched farming practices for the benefits of farmers.

According to him the development of Bixa Production Handbook was realised out of overwhelming support vy the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, AFA and the directorate of Miraa, Pyrethrum and other Industrial Crops technical officers.

For centuries, Bixa has been used as a natural dye and food colour in various cuisines to impart a yellow to orange hue to foods such as cheese, margarine and ethnic dishes like _biriani_.

Apart from this, the crop is also used in pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries which are currently on high demand in the fashion world.

The major growers can also expect to benefit handsomely from the crop’s multiple uses such as on the ongoing housing projects for home improvement products like floor wax, furniture polish, and wood stain polish.

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