KENYA – Kenya is set to join the continent’s leading cocoa producers following latest development that has seen the Kenya Agricultural Research Organisation (KALRO) successfully conduct a feasibility study on the crop viability in the Coast region.

The study conducted by KALRO in collaboration with Kilimo Sasa Fund (KSF) has also paved way for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the County Government of Kilifi, KSF, and the Community Agriculture Resources Development Program (CARDEP).

The organisations will run commercial farming project dubbed ‘Cocoa for New and Sustainable Livelihoods’ (CONSUL) that targets 99,000 farmers.

According to Mr Gary Roy Stubley, the chief executive officer of Kilimo Sasa Fund the project is targeting to produce between 40,000 and 50,000 tonnes of cocoa in the first harvest before expanding farming to other areas.

“Cocoa will take about two and a half years to mature and that happening we shall get an interim crop that will give us two harvests in a year.

“The overall tonnage that will put Kilifi and Kenya to the international cocoa market will be 250,000 tonnes in a year,” he said adding “the crop has a lifespan of between 30 and 40 years and is harvested twice a year.”

Speaking during the signing ceremony, Amason Kingi, Kilifi County Governor, said venturing into cocoa farming presents a potential to significantly transforming the economies of the region.

“This project is going to diversify the way we do our agriculture, as we are aware farming in Kilifi is mainly for subsistence consumption, but with this programme we are going to see farmers producing more cocoa for commercial purposes,” Kingi said.

Mr Kingi added that the project will see Kenyan cocoa produce compete with other cocoa products across the world and become a reliable source of revenue to Kilifi and Kenya at the same level as coffee and tea.

KSF, as a non-governmental organisation that promotes the use of bio-organic fertiliser will also partner with the KALRO to ensure certification of cocoa seeds brought in from Ghana, reports Business Daily.

Additionally, the organisation will also partner the county government to offer the necessary support through training on regenerative sustainable agriculture and the use of bio organic fertilizer.

Mr Kingi added that that the county government through the department of agriculture has also set up several measures to revamp the agricultural sector and diversify economic activities in region.

“We are currently in the process of revamping our cashew and coconut industry and the introduction of Cocoa farming will be another frontier while at the same time challenging our farmers to embrace new modern agricultural ventures as we look to add value to our already existing agricultural production,” he said.