Kenyan farmers will start commercially growing transgenic Bt cotton from next April after waiting for nearly two decades. The development is likely to spur economic growth by creating jobs in the dormant textile sector and reduce Kenyans’ dependence on imported second-hand apparel (mitumba), says principal Bt cotton researcher in the country Charles Waturu.
Research for Bt cotton in Kenya was conceptualised in 2001 to address the African bollworm menace. Confined field trials started in 2004 in Mwea and were successfully concluded in 2010.
Bt cotton yields almost three times more than current conventional varieties and takes between 130 and 180 days to mature, a Kenyan newspaper report quoted Waturu as saying.
The commercialisation process started in 2011, resulting in a conditional approval from the National Bio-safety Authority in 2016 to Monsanto, Waturu said on a recent tour to Mwea.
The country’s agriculture ministry in June last year had, in consultation with the trade ministry, appointed a 12-member task force to oversee the commercialisation of Bt cotton.
The task force initiated the environmental impact assessment Last December at nine sites in Bura, Katumani, Mwea, Perkerra, Kampi ya Mawe, Matuga, Kibos, Alupe and Barwessa.
In June a clearance certificate was obtained, marking the beginning of the first-season trials in seven sites—Bura, Mwea, Perkerra, Matuga, Kibos, Alupe and Barwessa.