International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) AfriCenter wishes to most profoundly thank His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta and the Cabinet for taking a bold step to approve commercial farming of Bt cotton.
This decision heralds a new dawn for cotton farming in Kenya. The country’s cotton production has been devastated by pests such as the African bollworm. The dwindling production has intensely slumped our once lively textiles and apparel industry. Over the years, cotton has had a glowing reputation as a reliable source of income for many Kenyan farmers. Bt cotton varieties that have in-built resistance to the bollworm – will restore this glory by boosting farmers productivity by about five folds.
This approval is a big win for smallholder farmers since Bt cotton hybrids will significantly reduce the use of pesticides, from 12 to about three sprays per season, reducing the cost of production. The momentous decision is a clear testimony that the Government has farmers interests at heart.
Bt cotton planting will be key in sustaining the increased capacity of the modernized Rift Valley Textiles (Rivatex). The revamped Rivatex annual capacity stands at over 100,000 bales yet the country currently realizes approximately 25,000 bales annually. Revitalization of the textiles and apparel industry is expected to become a reality with Bt cotton. This will increase the manufacturing sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP from the current 9.2 percent to 20 percent by 2022.
This decision could not have come at a better time for youth and women. Commercialization of Bt cotton will accelerate the Government’s ambition to create over 500,000 jobs in the cotton sub-sector for youth and women. Further, the improved cotton will create garment sufficiency in the country, reducing the importation of second-hand clothes (mitumba). Bt cotton will remarkably improve the quality of fabric and access to quality clothes for our population, and even augment the President’s initiative of wearing proudly ‘Made in Kenya’ garments every Friday.
The approval is a culmination of a process that started in 2001 when the first application to introduce Bt cotton was made.