Agricultural sector has continued to be the backbone of the Kenyan economy contributing directly 24% of Gross
Domestic Product (GDP), over 60% of exports, 75% of the total labor force and over 80% of industrial raw
materials (Owuor, 2009). Therefore, strengthening of the agricultural sector is a precondition for maintaining
economic recovery and growth. The Kenya vision 2030 and the Strategy for Revitalization of Agriculture have
underscored the fact that productivity of farmers can be improved through use of modern technologies (GOK,
2007). Agricultural development has a powerful impact on poverty because it helps poor compared to
development of other sectors. Research into new crops varieties for instance high yielding seeds and early
maturing has been prompted by need to reduce poverty through agricultural activities (UNCRD, 2003).
According to Ministry of finance and planning (2001) growing of high value crops and diversification into cash
crops are among the strategies to reduce poverty. It's due to the need to create wealth and reduce poverty that
Stevia was introduced in Kericho District.
According to GOK (2003) decline in agricultural productivity in Kenya has been due to poor access to
farm credit high cost of farm inputs and absence of appropriate technology. Old and inefficient production
technology and long maturity sugar variety are among the problems which has faced sugar industry in Kenya
(Kaumbutho et al., 1996). The introduction of Stevia in Kericho District can save on importation of sugar,
poverty alleviation through job creation by serving as cash crop as well as early maturity complementary crop
for sugar production and hence ensure regular flow of income to farmers.
Stevia is a perennial shrub indigenous to Brazil and Paraguay where it has been used as a natural
sweetener for hundreds of years. Stevia is also known as “sweet leaf” or “sugar leaf,” (Carakostas, 2008).
Stevia's leaves have a natural sweetness between 30 to 45 times that of regular sugar while its extracts having
up to 400 times the sweetness of white sugar (Elkins, 1997). The sweet tasting components of the Stevia plant
are called steviol glycosides which can be isolated and purified from the leaves of the Stevia plant added to some
foods, beverages and tabletop sweeteners in the U.S. and elsewhere (Carakostas et al, 2008). In recent years,
Stevia has been grown commercially and used as natural sweetener in many countries including Brazil, Paraguay,
Japan, China, Korea, United States, Canada and parts of Europe (Atteh et al, 2007). Stevia products could only
be marketed in the U.S. as dietary supplements but with the ruling of new Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
has cleared the way for Stevia's expanded use and increased the market potential of this crop (Whitaker, 2010).
In Canada, Stevia is being sold as an ingredient in tea but not as a sweetener. The leaves are used for sweetening,
as is, or dried and pulverized, or soaked in water; the liquor is used for sweetening beverages. Jan (2002)
concluded that Stevia and stevioside are safe when used as a sweetener.
Even though white sugar, turbinado, fructose, honey and corn syrup all qualify as natural sweeteners,
all of them are calorie- free nor can they be used by people who suffer from blood sugar disorders. Stevia has
been used in several areas of the world, such as in Brazil and Paraguay, as a natural control for diabetes
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