By Lorraine Anyango
Kisumu county has made deliberate steps to bridge the gap that is rapidly building up due to many agricultural extension officers retiring.
The county acknowledges the huge wealth of experience deposited in senior agricultural officers, who are in their 50s’ and the need to harness the wealth of knowledge, transferring the same to a younger group to complement for main stream extension officers.
Through its, Agriculture, Irrigation, Livestock and Fisheries Department, the Kisumu County in partnership with Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is training about 45 high breed mix of extension officers and Community Business Coaches (CBC) who will also double up as extension officers.
The CBC’s drawn from the seven sub counties in Kisumu are being taken through the farmers business school which has three modules including farmer field school, farmer business school and farmer market school.
Last year in June they cleared a 14 days module on farmer field school and currently they are undertaking a seven days module on farmer market school at the Kisii Agricultural Training College.
While opening the training, the County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Agriculture, Irrigation, Livestock and Fisheries, Gilchrist Owour Okuom underscored the importance of the training in changing mind sets.
“We have distributed water pumps, dairy cows and goats; however, some have not been taken care of well having landed in the wrong hands, but now you are being trained so that when distributions are done, lives are indeed changed.” CECM Okuom said.
He lauded the department for being first amongst others in performance appraisals due to their commitment in meeting their objective in revitalizing agriculture and enhancement of agri- business, adding that those being trained would encourage farmers to move from subsistence farming and start to grow for the masses.
He charged the CBC’s who are youths and women to be good ambassadors and truly be the model farmers they are expected to be.
Mr Tito Arunga, Value chain sub -program lead, FAO also spoke on high expectations on those being trained. “You must deliver success and build capacities of others.” He added.
Mr Arunga noted that the world population continues to grow hence markets for agricultural produce will always be there.
He said markets are key, adding that while there is an increased market in agricultural produce, there is decreased farmers capability to meet the demand hence all other continents are trying to find ways to bring their food in Africa. “We need to build the capacity of our own people.” He emphasized.
The CBC’s being trained are expected to work with three value chains including poultry, aquaculture and green leavy vegetables. The three value chains were selected because there is a ready market for the products in Kisumu.
Other reasons are because Kisumu County is the hub for the lake region economic block, it has good transport infrastructure including roads, railways and air transport.
Kisumu now has an opportunity to produce for the market, it has a demand and must now work on quality, food handling, preservation, packaging and branding.
The model used in training is expected to be scaled up for Kisumu and Migori counties having been adversely affected with floods and Covid 19.
The training is heavily borrowed from one pioneered in South Africa which emphasized on production and knowledge on varieties ensuring that farmers minimize on the excessive use of inorganic fertilizers and insecticides.
“That knowledge has been put into practice, most farmers know what to produce and where to produce it, what is disastrous is that they do not know where to find markets.” Mr Edwin Adenya, a consultant with FAO emphasized.
“Through the farmer business schools we are coming up with modalities where farmers are informed of the market first before they make a decision on what to produce.” Mr Adenya added.
The farmer market school is geared towards building the capacity of the participants to understand the dynamics of all markets in the value chains actors including value chain market facilitators.
The CBCs are meant to understand forming a whole eco-system that entails production to utilization, while emphasizing good inputs, farmers sourcing for quality breeds, quality seeds and ensuring that proper agronomics and husbandry practices are in place to produce what the market wants.
“We insist on strategic production and understanding seasonality in production in the region and the demand.” Mr Adenya added. The demand for the three value chains rises during Easter, and during school holidays as well as the Christmas festivities.
The CBCs will in turn train farmers from their respective areas to produce when the demand is high so that they are able to fetch better prices. They will take up the role of livestock production extension officers, Agricultural officers and fisheries extension officers and will mentor farmers.
Kisumu County is committed in ensuring that the future is secure, learning lessons from the past as well as inculcating global practices through farmer markets implementing the National and County government’s policies.