Agriculture is the main source of income in Kibwezi West Constituency as is the case in most the county and the nation as a whole. It accounts for over 70 per cent of the total household income followed by wage employment at 10 percent while rural and urban self- employment contribute 8 and 4 per cent respectively.
The constituency has a total arable land of over 1,000 Kms sq., which is over 50 percent of the total area. A total of 1,000 Kms sq which accounts for circa 50 percent of the total area in Kibwezi West is non-arable. Water scarcity has been a key challenge. To mitigate the effects of water scarcity, the community has constructed pan dams which are capable of retaining water. Soil erosion control measures are also being undertaken. The overall national development objective for the sector is to ensure food security for all and to reduce absolute poverty levels.
There is a push to enhance productivity and promote extension services, accessibility of farm inputs, improved storage facilities, improved production capabilities, better output prices, increased employment and entrepreneurial opportunities and access to funding. Other initiatives include programs to strengthen elements of the agricultural supply chain, better post-harvest management service providers, provision of drought resistant crops, intensification of awareness on new farming technologies, improved agricultural produce price providers and improved credit provision and accessibility services providers.
The lowlands are good for livestock keeping, cotton and fruit production. Fruits grown are mainly mangoes, pawpaw and oranges. The main crops produced in the constituency include maize, green grams, kale, spinach, pepper, pigeon peas and sorghum. Mangoes, bananas, pawpaw and oranges are also being farmed. The constituency has opportunities for the development of other crops due to the expansive land available and the more accessible and better developed water resources.
The Cooperative and Marketing sub-sector has contributed to growth and development within the constituency, especially in agriculture and livestock sectors. There are 62 registered cooperative societies, 42 of which are active . The constituency aims to double efforts to revitalize dormant and collapsed societies while at the same time strengthening their management and governance.
Aquaculture & Agroforestry
Aquaculture was introduced recently Kibwezi West through the Economic Stimulus Programme, where over than 200 fish ponds were established and stocked with Tilapia fish.
The high demand of wood fuel and charcoal has led to depletion of the existing forest cover in the constituency. There is therefore need to ensure the forest cover in the county is increased. To address this environmental issue, reverse it and at the same time provide for the community energy needs, farm forestry (woodland) is highly encouraged. Farm forestry is expected to help in provision of the much needed forest products for domestic use which includes firewood and timber.
Environmental degradation has been a major issue in the county due to charcoal burning, overgrazing, firewood and sand harvesting. The on-going interventions by the Kenya Forests Service such as the Economic Stimulus Programme have raised the community awareness. Likewise the Agro-Forestry programme has enabled the community to embark on tree planting. This will ensure that the community is able to generate income from fruit trees while woodlands in the farm forests will be used as a source of fuel (firewood). This will supplement the existing fuel wood demand thus reducing the ongoing and already dire environmental crisis in the constituency. Increased forest cover will reduce soil erosion while protecting the water catchment areas, improving soil fertility, in addition to beautification of institutions and major urban centres.
Agroforestry is also a major source of animal feeds which will reduce cases of overgrazing and hence soil erosion. Animal diseases will also be reduced due to limited movements in search of grazing areas.
The Ensure Environmental Sustainability program in the constituency have received a major boost through programmes like the Trees for Jobs initiative, Green Schools and the rehabilitation of the Kibwezi Forest where over one million trees have been planted over the last few years. Farmers are also being advised to adopt farm forestry through an agriculture policy that requires 10 per cent tree cover on the farms. The current forest cover in the constituency stands at about 15 per cent.
The constituency strives to improve agriculture and livestock production in order to reduce poverty among the communities. The measures that will be employed to realize this objective include sustainable utilization of resources like land, with emphasis on conservation of forests and water catchments areas, as well as reducing soil erosion increasing land under farming.
The constituency promotes investment in the development of agro-based industries like milk, meat, fruits processing and honey refining. This will increase employment and income generating activities. Growing of drought tolerant crops and rearing of animals will greatly reduce the county’s food deficit.
Other opportunities within the agricultural sector include the provision of efficient private-sector rural finance and credit supply systems for small scale farmers and improving the governance of farmers cooperatives’ will financially empower farmers and help them acquire better technology to boost their productivity. Efforts are also being focused on maintenance, improvement and expansion of the infrastructure that is essential for the sector to thrive. All these efforts will contribute greatly to the uplifting of the socio-economic status of the constituency’s inhabitants.