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CHALLENGES AND OPPRTUNITIES IN GRAIN AMARANTH CULTIVATION: A STUDY ON SMALL SCALE FARMERS IN MWEIGA LOCATION KIENI WEST DISTRICT
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ABSTRACT

Due to its unique properties grain amaranth has gained an increased attention in the world. The grain has some agricultural ability to grow successfully in adverse environment like the arid and semi-arid lands due to its drought tolerant characteristics. The grain matures fast, can be intercropped with other crops and has got high returns in a good season. It’s known to have high nutrition value than most grains. Grain amaranth therefore has got the ability to fight food insecurity and levels of poverty among the world rural poor and especially in Kenya where the long-term goal of food security has not been met. In spite of its positive attributes the levels of grain amaranth cultivation are still very low the world over and especially in Mweiga location.

The study sought to find out the challenges facing small scale farmers cultivating grain amaranth in Mweiga location. This was done through; establishing farmers’ access to information and support services; marketing and its influence on grain amaranth cultivation; and establishing the level of grain amaranth cultivation in Mweiga location.

The research relied on data collected from 51 small scale farmers engaged in the cultivation of grain amaranth and identified through purposive sampling. A structured questionnaire was used for personal interviews. A second interview was carried out through the key informant the Kieni west Agricultural officer. The primary data was collected and presented through descriptive statistics using Microsoft excel computer software.

The study revealed that farmers received information from reliable sources, the KAPP officials and the agricultural officer. The majority farmers had access to a cooperative society and a reliable source of certified seedling. The only challenge with access to information was lack of follow-ups in the farms. Marketing was the major challenge that discouraged the farmers from cultivating amaranth for commercial purposes. Farmers lacked a forward link to the local and national markets and the prices offered were low compared to other crops already being grown in the area.

Findings from the study show the levels of Grain amaranth cultivation was low. This has been attributed to challenges in Marketing and competition from other crops and farming activities practiced in the area. The survey noted that although there challenges, there were also opportunities that can be exploited where grain amaranth can be used to provide for food security and generate income for the households when cultivated for commercial purposes.

The study recommended the need for all the stake holders to work together towards commercialization of grain amaranth, sensitize all farmers through intensive training on the need to increase acreage on grain amaranth. This will call for the increase in numbers of agricultural extension officers and by encouraging farmers to form groups for easy reach. There is need to enlarge the market base of the grain by creating awareness on its nutritional value, diversifying its markets through value addition and use of market Led approach strategy through contract farming.

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