Old age for some people tends to bring fond memories of good old days when they were younger; days of bloom and shine. Such is the story of Hannah Mberere who lives in Kiambu County in Kenya.
In fact she has seen when an average family had many acres of land for their subsistence and use. She has seen the population grow. Families have had to build more rooms or houses per homestead to accommodate them. She has also witnessed the land being subdivided amongst household members.
Not only has average farm size decreased but productivity has also reduced.
“I have grown up in a farming community. I have seen the value of agriculture. It is the proceeds from agriculture that helped me raise all my children even after my husband passed away,” says Hannah.
“We always had enough to eat with food to spare when I was young. This gradually changed, and the smaller harvest we got was never enough. We had to go and buy food from the market. It was a shift to our ways of doing things in my family. It became apparent that buying food was becoming a norm, and we even forgot what it is to have a bumper harvest,” she adds.
“The 1980’s and 1990’s saw a great change in agricultural production, as climate changed and soil fertility declined. The varieties that we have always grown mature too late and they are often affected by drought. Agriculture became a struggle and we were not rewarded for our hard work,” she continues.
Despite Hannah’s age, she still has a story to tell of great progress and change. This is after she was taught by her Village-Based Advisor (VBAs) in 2019. “It was an eye-opener. I was always a failing farmer because there were no professionals teaching me,” says Hannah amazingly.
VBAs in Kiambu County are selected by the Kiambu County Government staff, and trained by staff from the Local Development Research Institute (LDRI), and private sector Seed and Fertilizer Companies; to implement a private sector-led Extension Approach funded by AGRA which also provides technical advice.
“Since I was trained by my VBA, I have learned a lot, and I have been able to harvest good maize. The information from the training is useful because I have never before witnessed such a big yield. I was taught which was the best maize variety to grow on my farm, how correctly space seeds, and place manure and fertilizer. And the increased harvest is a testimony of that training,” Hannah adds.
Now Hannah has adopted a new maize variety and better planting techniques and she has enough to eat and she also sells some of her harvests. She no longer goes to the market every day to buy food. Her story is not unique because most farmers in her Village now have adopted the good agronomic practices. The result has transformed lives through a rediscovery of a neglected but now productive venture, agriculture.