Improved farming practices give farmers hope of a brighter future

It is no fallacy that 50-year-old Anastasia Njeri has a big family of ten children to care for. Making ends meet had been a constant haunting reality. While she enjoys a house full of joy and children, she was always aware that the family’s income might never meet all their needs. Moreover, she has always had a dream of her children reaching their full potential through education. 

As the years went by, her dreams started fading away. No sooner had her dreams become forgotten than she came across a Village-based Advisor (VBA) in Kamuyu village that trained farmers about new, improved varieties and Good Agronomic Practices (GAP). 

“We were trained on how to use improved maize varieties. Before the training, I used to sow four seeds together with manure, and fertilizer, all in one hole at the planting stage. The result was not pleasing. It was a struggle to feed my family,” adds Anastasia.

“My VBA gave me a small 25 g pack sample of seeds of a new variety to try on my farm. When these seeds brought a bountiful harvest, I then bought 5 Kilograms of seeds of this variety to plant in the next season. These seeds have now given me over ten (90 kg) sacks of maize. This success was after I attended training conducted by my Village-based Advisor. The training was very valuable to me. I realized the importance of listening to experts and learning new ways of farming,” she says.

With her steady income, Anastasia’s dream, compelled by the desire to provide proper shelter for her family, her aspiration is not out of reach. Of all her wishes, she has dreamed of constructing a stone house for her family and moving from their small iron sheet house. From last seasons’ harvest, she was able to harvest enough food for her family and sell the excess. The income she got from the surplus enabled her to buy building materials. She is now building a new house for her family. “This is aside from providing the needs of my children who are also going to school,” she says.  

“My children can now choose what they want to be. With good income and the desire to study that they have, they can go on and become doctors, teachers, lawyers, or even farmers, you name it,” she says after enjoying the few months of improved agriculture. 

Anastasia is one of the farmers trained by Damaris, a VBA. With her enthusiasm and determination, Damaris has been able to bring together and teach over 250 farmers. The positive impact of the program is visible on Damaris’ happy and satisfied face because her community will not be hungry anymore, thanks to the training. 

A humble iron sheet house stands next to Anastasia, for now, but in the coming days there will be a stone house; this presents part of a new narrative of positive change that is taking place in this village and a symbol of the indomitable spirit of people who chose to stand tall against adversity.

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

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