By Bett Kipsang’
Thirst for information and new knowledge has seen thirteen farmers from Sipili sponsor themselves to attend the Nyeri National Agricultural Society of Kenya (A.S.K) show. The trip was coordinated by Ng’arua Maarifa Centre and Sipili Stakeholders’ Forum. Seven women and five men contributed fare and hired a Nissan Matatu for the trip.
Their sole objective was to learn from the rich display of information at Kabiruini show grounds. This year’s theme for ASK shows was "Enhancing technology in agriculture and industry for food security and national growth."
On our way back, farmers engaged in hearty conversations about the show, and I was convinced that the trip would have a lasting positive impact on the participants.
I later interviewed three farmers (two men and one woman) each of them had a moving story about the educational trip. ‘‘My objective was to learn new technologies in agriculture and livestock farming, that is why horticulture and livestock sectors impressed me most’’ said David Mwangi 68.
One immediate impact of the trip for Mwangi, a passion fruits farmer, is to replace his livestock with improved breeds for higher production and profits. ‘‘The skills and knowledge gained will enable me earn higher incomes and reduce cost of buying fertilizer, that will improve my life’’ David observed. He also learned how to make compost manure, better ways of growing tomatoes, tissue culture bananas and other horticultural crops.
‘‘I’m now longing for another opportunity to attend such a learning forum to gain knowledge on how to improve my farming practice’’ he said.
Tabitha Wanjiru 45 has only heard over the radio about high producing breeds of cattle. She has never seen one with her own eye. The Nyeri Agricultural show came in handy for Wanjiru. ‘‘I was amazed to see a cow producing up to 50 Kilograms of milk per day!’’ she observed. It was also amazing for Tabitha to see a huge cow dropping milk as it stood to feed. ‘‘I took a photo with the cow so that I can explaine to my husband and children because I lack words to describe,’’ she said.
Tabitha improved her knowledge on vegetable gardening, seed selection, farm management and use of compost manure to get high production and conserve the soil. She is optimistic that her Kitchen garden will improve tremendously.
As a house wife, she relies on fuel wood for domestic energy needs, which is why she was much impressed by the biogas cooker. ‘‘I learned that we can cook at home using cow dung gas instead of using firewood’’ Tabitha said. She keeps dairy goats and cattle at home, though not the best breeds, she is planning to install the biogas to provide household energy.
She learned about fish and poultry farming whereby the poultry house is constructed above the fish pond such that chicken droppings fall on the fish pond and provide fish feeds.
Wanjiru is quite categorical on how she expect her life to change after going to the show, ‘‘I am already planning to buy high yielding cattle, like the one I saw which can earn me up to Ksh.200,000 a year’’ She said.
‘‘My money and time spent on trip were not wasted’’ observed Tabitha Wanjiru. ‘‘I wish I had gone to the show with my husband or children so that they can also learn the same information’’ she said, promising to sponsor other family members to attend such forums in future. This she believes will change the farming practices in the family. The technology of pumping water using a motor bike engine was another interesting feature for Wanjiru.
Peter Muturi 42, a group leader in Sipili is one of the show enthusiasts, ‘‘I deeped into my pocket to raise money to attend the ASK show in order to learn about crops, livestock farming, pest and disease control methods’’ said Muturi. The dairy sector was captivating, ‘‘I learned how it is easy to keep a dairy animal under zero grazing’’ he said. He gained knowledge that a cow producing 52 Kg of milk per day can earn the farmer two hundred thousand shillings in a year. He plans to acquire farm machinery to help in preparing animal feeds.
Peter borrowed the idea of planting tomatoes and learnt about a new variety known as Nuru F1, which can earn up to Ksh.165 000 per acre. Another crop is red and baby onions which can produce up to Ksh.65,000 per acre.
‘‘I went to the Kenyatta University stand and learned how to extract medicines from plants’’ Said peter Muturi who has resolved to buy and keep grade cattle and plant onions in his farm. He has already sown onions in the seedbed.
Muturi is now an information agent, ‘‘I use every meeting I attend to tell people the importance of going to the show. My advice to farmers is to be proactive in searching for information, they should start small and grow big, ’’ said Muturi.