Farmers’ lives transformed through improved access to agricultural extension services
Ward Agriculture Officers in Kiambu County are currently working with 439 community-appointed Village-Based Advisors (VBAs) to improve agricultural Extension Service Delivery to 125,000 farmers.
Kiambu County, a potentially productive part of Central Kenya, has been producing agricultural products for local and export consumption. Most of the residents of the County are also farmers, and farming is their primary source of income. However, crop productivity has reduced as the climate has changed, soil fertility has declined, and extension services are not available. Lacking up-to-date information regarding improved crop varieties can endanger their lives, food security, and source of income.
Naomi Njoroge is the Ward Agriculture Officer (WAO) of Githiga Ward in Kiambu County. “The primary role of a WAO is to disseminate information to the farmers regarding good agronomic practices. In essence, the WAO is responsible for most of the crops in the area that he/she serves,” she says.
Despite exercising their mandate and even with good intentions of the WAO, fulfilling this role is unachievable because, for example, Naomi has over 7,000 farmers that she has to teach.
“Even if I’d want to get to those 7,000 farmers in one year, it is next to impossible. However much I would try, it would be impossible to attend to all the farmers. I actually would like to pass on information about the good agronomic practices. A farmer calls me here, another one calls to another place and the other one somewhere else,” she adds with visible frustration.
“Some need me to measure the trenches, others want me to analyse their soil; another wants me to diagnose what kind of crop diseases are in their farm; another one wants me to show them how to plant…how can I do it all alone?” she ponders the dilemma she has as a WAO.
This hectic and unattainable job is, however, now a thing of the past. This is after the County adopted a private sector-led Extension Approach involving self-employed Village-Based Advisors. The approach involves the WAO identifying and training up to 10 VBAs to disseminate knowledge about improved maize varieties and the best agronomic practices to farmers in their Villages.
“The VBAs and the WAO undergo the same training and collaborate in supporting the farmers. I am now able to reach my 7,000 farmers through my VBAs,” she adds.
The result of this much need support is that farmers can access information on good agronomic practices. Moreover, the farmer-extension service ratio is now acceptable to ensure no farmer is left behind. This makes farming a productive venture whereby farmers enjoy the fruits of their labor. This has also brought about a transformation in agriculture. It is no longer a struggling income-generating activity but a sure investment that the farmers can rely on.
With the improved harvests, farmers have now become food secure and now can sell their surplus produce to access income to cater to education, health care, and other necessities that bring life in all its fullness.
“With this new Extension Approach, I am very happy. As a Ward Agricultural Officer I feel I have not disappointed the farmers that I am not able to reach because the VBAs who are there helping me to do my work. It is a move that is most welcome, and our farmers are now celebrating,” she concludes.