Thousands of small-scale farmers in lower parts of Taita Taveta county have expressed fear that they may not plant this season due to the late onset of rainfall.
Most lowland areas, especially in Voi, are yet to receive rainfall resulting in a severe drought.
The Kenya Meteorological Department had warned that the March-April -May (MAM) rain season will be below normal with a late onset.
“We are now in mid-April yet the rainy season has not started. This is a very worrying situation because it is evident that we might not get anything from the farm,” Emmanuel Mwambi, a small-scale farmer at Mkwachunyi said.
Mwambi said he had already prepared his two-acre farm ready for planting but he is giving up due to the delay.
He said he is afraid of making losses by investing in an already failed season since the Met department had warned that the MAM season will be characterised by early secession of rain.
“In last season we had rain for only two weeks and farmers recorded huge losses. We are afraid of making such mistakes again,” he said.
Gladis Mwake, another farmer, said that she has abandoned crop farming and she is planning to plant fodder once the rain starts.
She observed that many farmers in the area have not harvested anything for the last five seasons due to depressed rainfall.
The area is also prone to human-wildlife conflict owing to its proximity to the expansive Tsavo National Park.
Mwake said that farmers who had received pasture seeds from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will now try their luck in hay production.
“Pasture requires little rainfall to grow, unlike other crops that we have been planting over years. We are, however not sure whether the rain will come,” she said.
In an advisory to farmers last month, the weatherman warned that the long rain season would also be short and depressing.
The MET county director Robinson Asira said rainfall distribution is expected to be poor both in time and space.
Asira said long dry spells may also occur within the rainy season.
“Farmers are advised to drought-tolerant crops that can do well with little rainfall such as sorghum, green grams, cow peas, pigeon peas, cassavas, sweet potatoes, ground nuts and sunflowers,” Asira said.
The region is currently experiencing severe drought after a number of consecutive failed seasons thus affecting food production.
Some 170,000 people are in need of food relief in the region with the number expected to balloon due to low rainfall.