Matuguta Village of Kiambu County in Kenya has a rural appeal that is matched by the friendliness and pleasantness of its hardworking people. Farmers in this village have forged togetherness that is also motivated by discovery. Like a fire that spreads across a dry grassland, breakthrough news of new farming methods has spread all over the village, making it strange to hear of a farmer who has not adopted the new methods. Matuguta Village is 1 of more than 400 Villages where Village-Based Advisors (VBA) has made improved seeds and information on good agronomic practices more accessible.
Before, farmers were used to living by guesswork or erred misconceptions on what good maize production entails. This was because there were too many farmers compared to the few County Government Extension Officers (EO) available. Some farmers had not seen an EO for over two decades.
Village-based Advisors, who are selected and trained by County EOs have helped farmers access extension services for the first time in many years. This has been done together with the Local Development Research Institute (LDRI), technical advice from AGRA, and private sector Seed Companies who provide improved seeds and fertilizers to VBAs for demonstrations.
It is in Matuguta village that a youthful farmer, Emily Wambui, is defying the odds to forge a future for herself. The 25-year-old graduate says she was inspired to study Applied Biology at University because she needed the knowledge of how to save lives using both health and nutrition, and agriculture. When she graduated in 2019, she heard about the work of her VBA and quickly became part of the new revolution that is transforming the lives of farmers in her County.
“When growing up, I always wanted to be a doctor. In our villages, you see that children are suffering a lot due to poor health. Poor health comes from food insecurity and a lack of income to access proper medical care and nutrition,” Emily says, explaining her motivation for practicing agriculture.
Emily, who is committed to contributing to Kenya’s Vision 2030, says, “After I graduated from the university, I decided to venture into small-scale agriculture because food security is one of my country’s visions. I saw the value of the rural areas. That is the source of the food for the cities. I wondered, where will the food in the city come from if all youths run to the city to look for jobs? Certainly, someone must fill the gap and feed the masses. That is where farming comes in, and that is what I needed to do.”
Equipped with a childhood dream for healthy communities and an income generation desire, Emily decided to start farming. At first, it was not easy because traditionally, in her community, women don’t access land. She asked her father to provide her with a small piece of land where she used the small samples pack of seed of improved maize varieties that she got from her VBA after a training session in her village. To her surprise and awe, the few seeds she planted yielded a massive harvest.
“The VBA was giving small sample packs of seeds of new varieties for the farmers to experiment with. So I took a small pack of seeds, it was around 50 seeds. When growing up, what I used to see was one maize cob per plant. But when my maize matured, I could see two to three cobs per stem. Not only were they more, but they were also healthier and took less time to grow.” She adds.
With her harvest, Emily has been able to add to the family food basket as well as visit orphanages and donated some maize.
“I managed to convince my dad that good agronomic practices together with a new improved variety can give us more. Next planting season, he too will adopt the seeds of the variety I have used,” she says.
With the results she has got, Emily has decided to entirely focus on agriculture as her full-time job. “I don’t need to go and look for a job in an office. I think I will be fully satisfied with agriculture.” She says with satisfaction.