When pyrethrum farming was still a lucrative business, blooming flowers painted a magnificent picture of snow-canopied farms, and the money it put in farmers’ pockets earned it the moniker “white gold”.
Grown nearly entirely by small-scale farmers across 18 counties, perhaps no other cash crop was more widespread, and whose long drawn-out and painful death came with devastating consequences to rural economies.
And no other crop has so stubbornly refused to flourish despite repeated efforts to resuscitate it.
Kenya was once the leading producer of pyrethrum in the world. At its peak in the 1980s and 90s, it produced more than 12,000 tonnes per year, providing 70 per cent of the global supply which earned the country more than Sh4 billion in the time’s exchange rate.
This huge dominance then translated into wealth for more than 200,000 farmers in Nakuru, Nyandarua, Narok, West Pokot, Nyeri, Kisii, Embu, Meru, Kiambu, Murang’a, Uasin Gishu, Laikipia, Nyamira, Bomet, Kericho, Bungoma, Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo counties.