Bungoma County’s economy majorly depends on agriculture, with many households actively involved in the industry. The majority of families rely on agriculture production, mainly maize and sugarcane and animal husbandry. Maize, beans, sweet potatoes and various vegetables are the main crops. These are primarily farmed for sustenance, with the surplus sold to cover other family expenses. Sugar cane, cotton, palm oil, coffee, sunflower, and tobacco are the most important cash crops. The majority of families combine livestock and agricultural output. This is done on a modest basis however, some farms also raise milk and poultry.
On the other hand, agricultural productivity has decreased over time as a result of climate change. As a result, food security has been jeopardized making a more extensive population face poverty. Most farmers in the county heavily rely on rainfall, which can be unreliable. Pests and illnesses have become more prevalent as a result of higher rainfall and temperature variations, resulting in lower crop yields and post-harvest losses. The main climatic dangers influencing agricultural production in the county include moisture stress, planting season fluctuations, excessive and irregular rainfall, and high temperatures.
High population has also been a significant constraint, contributing to a decline in agricultural productivity. This is due to land fragmentation into small units since there is insufficient control over agrarian zones policies.
Another major challenge experienced by the county is that most farming technologies are expensive and the county cannot afford to adopt them due to resource constraints and inadequate capital. Lack of demand-driven research for modern technology application and innovation also contributes to low production thus is a major setback for the agriculture sector in the county.
Poor enforcement of regulations concerning cultivation on steep slopes and encroachment into forests especially in Mt.Elgon Sub County, has resulted to soil erosion and catchment degradation. This has been a major driver of soil infertility leading to low and poor produce.
The region is characterized by poor road infrastructure networks increasing the cost of transportation. This greatly reduces access to farm inputs resulting to reduced profit margins for the farmers.
Other challenges include:
- Inadequate storage facilities leading to increased loss during pre and post-harvest stages.
- Inadequate extension services.
- Poor livestock nutrition which results in the prevalence of livestock diseases and lack of access to emerging knowledge on modern farming practices by the farmers in the county.
These challenges can easily be avoided through extensive research on climate change, the formation of more producer organizations, proper and coordinated extension services, subsidies to farmers, insurance schemes, and targeted financing of agribusiness activities to cushion the population of Bungoma County and support its economy.
The recent launch of a business incubation hub by Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) could be the much-awaited remedy to counter these challenges. The hub will cater to agripreneurs in the region and is focused on boosting agribusiness through mentorship, incubation and initial funding. Agripreneurs from nearby counties will also be beneficiaries of the hub.
KCIC through the Agribiz program launched the business incubation hub to support Agribusiness stakeholders in the county. The program that is funded by the European Union (EU) and the Ministry of foreign affairs in Denmark (Danida), seeks to support 2,400 women and youth-led agribusiness enterprises across the country and lead to the creation of 17,000 job opportunities.