Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Exchange visit proves beneficial to farmers

By Bob Aston
Exchange visits have become an ideal way of sharing knowledge between farmers. The practical demonstrations not only lead to mutual knowledge increase but also ensure farmers are able to share experiences and also adopt innovations and ideas.
Need for knowledge sharing prompted the Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP)-Laikipia to organize for a 3 days exchange visit for 35 farmers drawn from various Maize Value Chain Groups (VCGs) in the County.
The farmers leaving Laikipia for Nakuru and Eldoret
On August 12, 2015, the farmers started a journey that would see them visit Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS)-Nakuru, Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC) Agribusiness Expo at Kabarak University, Schemers Community Based Organization (CBO), and Kapsuswa Farm in Eldoret.

 Farmers were able to interact, share information, and learn best agricultural practices from their counterparts in Eldoret. 

The visit to KEPHIS provided the farmers with an opportunity to learn about seed certification, Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND), seed handling and selling, seed procurement, quality marks, and documentation.

Nahashon Mwangi, Business Field Coordinator, Laikipia Produce, and Marketing Cooperative Society noted that the information that he learned during the exchange visit has helped him to understand how best he can ensure members of the cooperative embrace agribusiness and how he can manage it.
He was particularly glad that he visited the EAGC stand during the Agribusiness expo. At the stand, he learned more about post-harvest handling.
“The exposure that I received will enable me to convey the information to members of the cooperative and also open their mind on what we can do to ensure that we succeed. Schemers CBO is an example on how we can also improve farmers livelihood,” said Nahashon.
He expects that he will be able to convey the knowledge gained to the members of the cooperative so that they can be able to reduce losses during harvest in order for them to enjoy better returns.
Some of the farmers admiring the 'Charolais' bull during the EAGC Agribusiness Expo
 “The trip triggered and changed my attitude towards farming. I felt challenged to think big and to have a diverse picture about the whole idea of farming. I hope what we have learned will be the fuel to incorporate in us a yes we can do attitude,” said Nahashon.
On her part, Mary Maina from Losogwa Maize VCG said that the information that she obtained from KEPHIS had a huge impact in her life. 
She now knows that she has to demand for official receipts with lot numbers any time when she purchases seeds. This will make follow up easy when she needs to complain to KEPHIS about lack of seed germination.
“I am now aware that I have to ensure that I buy seeds from certified stockists and that I should demand for seed test certificate when I doubt whether seeds are genuine,” said Mary.
She reckons that farmers have never known that carry stock seeds needs re-testing after every season and that seed companies should always check the viability of carry stock seeds. She said that she would now be confirming whether seeds lot numbers are KEPHIS-generated.
“I never knew that seeds have to be tested for two cycles before they are released to farmers. The exchange visit was beneficial. The information that I gathered was invaluable and will impact on many farmers,” said Mary.
Similarly, Robert Ndungu from Karaba Maize VCG expressed his admiration by the work that Schemers CBO has been doing. His group is interested in aggregating cereals this year and he believes the knowledge that he gained will go a long way in making this a reality.
 “I learned a lot about how as a group we can mobilize members to raise funds for undertaking various development projects. I am going to try and see how as a group we can also fund raise in order to start construction of a warehouse,” said Mr. Ndungu.
The farmers enjoying a glass of milk at Kapsuswa Farm in Eldoret
He was able to learn how to manage a store and how farmers can come together in order to bulk produce and seek for market once they harvest. Of particular interest to him was how the Warehousing Receipting System (WRS) works. This is an avenue that he believes can ensure other traders do not exploit farmers.
“The exchange visit was an eye opener. We can also be apostles of change in Laikipia County. It is imperative that as maize farmers we embrace agribusiness and also realize that we can improve our livelihood through value addition of cereals,” said Mr. Ndungu.
On her part, Annastacia Mwaura noted that she had not comprehended the importance of soil analysis until after the visit to KEPHIS. She learned that it is a way of accessing soil fertility and plant nutrient requirements.
She said that the first priority in her farm next season would be to analyze her soil so that she can know the accurate assessment of the soil fertility in her farm and the recommended fertilizer use.
 “The exchange visit enabled me to grasp the fact that community support is the root of a better and successful organization. We were challenged as farmers from Laikipia County as our counterparts from Eldoret are more organized than us,” said Mwaura.
ASDSP is keen in supporting the transformation of Kenya’s agricultural sector into an innovative, commercially oriented, competitive, and modern industry. It has already implemented a concept note on Post-harvest management technologies and is now in the process of implementing a concept note that seeks to increase maize production in Laikipia County and strengthening Maize VCGs to become Grain Business Hubs.
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