Written by Anthony Aisi
Expectations are high in Kenya regarding the impending release of Bt cotton to Kenyan farmers by 2014. This imminent milestone therefore raises the questions whether the country has the required institutional and market structures in place to ensure optimum gain from Bt cotton.
To succeed the country needs to study how other countries like Colombia already commercially growing the crop have managed the process.
Introduction of transgenic cotton in columbia was part of the government initiative to revitalize cotton production in the country and to take it to the next level for the sake of the cotton farmers and economy boost.
Dr. Charles Waturu, the Center Director of KARI -Thika and Principal Investigator of the Bt cotton project shared first-hand insights gained from interactions he had with farmers, traders and ginners during a recent fact finding mission to Colombia.
His presentation during the OFAB monthly forum titled “Bt-Cotton Commercialization: Case Study of Colombia” explained an in-depth coverage of the socio-economic benefits of Bt cotton and highlighted some of the challenges faced by Colombian Bt cotton growers.
Colombia has been growing biotech cotton on a commercial scale since 2002 and is one the leading producers of biotech cotton. According to ISAAA’s Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops 2011, Colombia is estimated to have enhanced farm income from biotech cotton by US$45 million in the period 2002 to 2010.
"Does the Kenyan agricultural sector have a chance of replicating Colombia’s success with Bt cotton?" Waturu challenged partners and stakeholders during the forum.
According to Waturu's survey from Columbia, the lesson learned can be replicated and enhance our agricultural sector even better than current. "There is a need for the government to facilitate a negotiated price for domestic cotton buyer established by the stakeholders and updated regularly." Waturu answered.
He also pointed out the need of Bt Cotton seed should be produced within the country to ensure that they arte well adapted to the local growing conditions.