Farming gives a head start for youths in Gatundu
Just kilometers from Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi is a garden that was once unproductive and is now a greening proof that if people are given the right information and skills and are willing to work on it, nothing is impossible. Veronica Nyakio is the daughter of Michael Waweru, an avid farmer who is now aged and retiring from active farming but happily handing over the newfound secret to his 30-year-old daughter.
Veronica is a proud youth, as she presents the fruits of adapting to new and improved farming practices with the support of the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). “From this garden, our family now has sufficient food and has earned enough income to cover other needs that the family identified, ” she says.
Veronica is one of 29,300 farmers that have so far been trained by Village based Advisors (VBAs) in Kiambu County. Her story is a result of training and support has become a catalyst for farmers to acquire new knowledge and learn new techniques that helped expand their horizon for the benefit of their families. In the end, it taught them to stand on their own and become models of empowerment in their community.
“Before the training, we used to plant maize seeds anyhow, but now I have learned to grow early-maturing hybrid varieties and apply optimum seed spacing. That added to correct methods of manure and fertilizer placement and fall armyworm control, I have been able to harvest ten times more than before,” she adds.
The income her family got helped them to buy a water tank. “Accessing water was a nightmare because I had to spend hours ferrying water from a distant source to our home. But now that we have a water tank, I can finish my house chores in record time. With extra time, I can attend to the chickens, cows, and goats that also drink plenty of water and now produce more milk and eggs, respectively,” she adds.
The dear daughter to Mr. Waweru says, “I love my parents, and I pray that they live longer. Now that we can supplement their meals with milk and eggs, my parents look healthier, and I know they will live long. We have been tough that breakfast is an important meal of the day, and their breakfast is now full of much-needed nutrition.”
Veronica also used to cook from a kitchen with a broken roof, from the sale of the bountiful harvest she and her parents were able to buy new iron sheets and now cook from a comfortable kitchen.
The family is also able to create jobs for others who help them with the construction of various structures on their farm.
With more than 50 animals (cows, goats, sheep, and chickens) on their farm, the family is also able to harvest manure from the animal waste matter.
A new beginning has dawned for the family of nine. Before now, their maize store was an empty structure idling and having no use. But now the store is never empty and stands as a sign of certainty for a future food source and evidence of hard work and optimism.
AGRA believes that agricultural technologies and practices can only have a positive effect if they are communicated and implemented by farmers and end-users. Extension is the mechanism by which this process is achieved. Within our five-year strategy, one of the biggest challenges is how to further the reach and impact of government extension agents and create demand for improved seeds, fertilizers, and other yield-enhancing inputs. The ratio of extension staff to farmers in most of our target countries is 1:5,000. We aim to improve this ratio to 1:500.
Recognizing the growing role of the private sector in the lives and livelihoods of Africa’s farmers, our extension approach involves identifying and training self-employed village-based advisors (VBAs). VBAs are ‘lead farmers’ who are selected to share technologies and knowledge locally with fellow farmers. With connections to input companies, they help to promote quality seeds and fertilizers, together with good agricultural practices. This model has been particularly successful in Kiambu County, Kenya.
AGRA works through the Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation In Africa (PIATA). This is a unique strategic partnership launched in 2017 that enables African agriculture actors to do business differently as they support leaders to drive an inclusive agricultural transformation. PIATA members include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ.
By Nancy Okwengu