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    Field technicianEvery year between April and June, over 600 farmers receive free training on various agricultural practices both in crop production and livestock rearing, at a centre that now boasts of having created agriculture millionaires.

     

    Waruhiu Agricultural Training Centre situated in Kiambu County is similar to ordinary classrooms, yet different in the key aspects especially for farmers. The training is never theoretical, as the trainers believe touching, seeing and hearing matters in convincing the farmers. “While most of the farmers who come to this centre are predominantly from Kiambu County, the centre is open to farmers across the country. We are glad we have received majority of them from all corners of the country either here to learn more or make inquiries about farm management practices,” said Mr. Joseph Mureithi, the principal of the centre.

     

    Each year the centre carries 30 field training sessions ranging from selecting of good livestock breeds, and how to breed them, value addition of various crops, how to manage greenhouses and tending to sensitive crops among others. “The center is not just about training, it is also about answering questions from farmers, and the farmers are keen on asking questions. It is that interest that keeps us motivated. We also run a mobile phone tutoring programme where farmers can contact us through their phones and get responses spot on,” Mureithi added.

    The center works closely with research institutions, universities and not for profit organizations to acquire more knowledge on the latest developments in the agricultural sector which they then share with the farmers. These include new crop varieties, new farm technologies or any new threats to crops or livestock that might be important to farmers. For new varieties especially those that are high yielding, the centre grows them in the farm to allow visiting farmers learn by seeing and touching.

     

    On average the trainings take one day. From the 600 farmers who currently train, the centre hopes to reach 1,000 farmers through spreading word about the centre, The centre commits Sh8million each year in training while Sh4million goes into farming that takes place there.

    The centre is bridging the acute information gap that has been occasioned by a reduced number of government extension officers who were traditionally the carriers of information on matters agriculture. There are currently 5000 extension officers in Kenya translating into one extension officer for 1200 farmers.

    But such centres have also been hailed by research bodies like Food and Agriculture Organization as potent in information dissemination among small holder farmers. This, the institutions say is due to the peer sharing that has been proven as key communication channel especially in agriculture.

    For more information contacts below:

    Joseph Mureithi

    Number: 0722226235

     

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    Tana River beekeepers are recording increased honey production and incomes thanks to their efforts to form themselves in maketing groups which is also seeing them enjoy economies of scale.

    The bee keepers have always used the rudimental log hives for beekeeping. The total number of log hives in 2010 was 1160. Honey yields from the log hives averaged 5kgs per hive each season against an optimum production level of 15kilos of the same. With two seasons per year, this translated to 10 kgs for each loghive every year. The farmers also individually sold the honey either in crude or semi-refined form to middlemen from Bura and Garissa Towns and earned meagre returns

    But an initiative to form themselves in marketing groups is finally paying off for the last three years. The number of log hives has increased from 1160 to 1740 with the introduction of the superior Langstroth hives efficient in honey production moving from zero to 170. The result has increased volumes of better quality honey.  The beekeepers are also now processing their own honey and packaging it.

     The main markets are Bura and Hola Towns. Far off markets include Garissa, Mombasa, and Nairobi. The group sells the processed honey at Sh 150 per kilo and makes a much bigger margin compared to the Sh60 they were getting before the KAPP intervention. The group has opened a Bank account and this has encouraged members to save.

    Other than honey, the group is also processing bees wax. However due to challenges of quality, they are not getting optimum prices for the wax and they require a wax extractor. Brokers have however not given up and still entice a few members to sell to them directly thus breaking group rules.

    Key challenges facing the group are persistent drought, charcoal burning which interferes with nectar collection by the bees, strong middlemen, numerous charges such as; the Kenya Bureau of Standards annual levy of Sh 1,000, public health premises inspection fees of Sh3,000 and medical check up fee of Sh300 person every six months.  

    But even with the challenges the beekeepers are soldiering on because the benefits far outweigh the challenges. “ I have gotten a life I never imagined I would live. I am comfortably educating my children, and have extra money left which I invested in fresh produce farming.  I look forward to growing more with this initative,” said Joram Kebaso one of the pioneer members.

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    Rows of succulent tomatoes sit comfortably next to nicely tended watermelons. Adjacent to them, tangerine fruit trees sways in harmony with orange ones in a three farm whose high yields are not the only marvel but the man behind it; Josphat Kimathi Limbitu is a blind man from Imenti North district who has defied his lack of eyesight to create a model farm and inspire hundreds of farmers including chiefs, lawyers and doctors from his area.

    Having been blind from an early stage Kimathi was trained at Sikiri Agriculture College for the blind and deaf in South Nyanza. With the help of his wife, Kimathi has managed to grow watermelons, oranges, tangerines, bananas and miraa trees.

    “As an elder in Meru I cannot have a farm that doesn’t have miraa. It ties with the Meru customs,” he said. But it is the story of sinking a borehole to get water to irrigate his farm that is eye catching. According to Kimathi, he sank the 72 feet borehole with the help of his wife who would lower him into the borehole using ropes. This was after realizing that the water from the nearby river Kuuru would not be enough to cover his entire farm.

    Once he found water on the borehole, with the help of his wife he could draw it using pulleys then proceed to storing it in 200 litre drums and later channel it to the farm. But as the farm has grown and having realized good returns from the farm, he has gone ahead to buy a generator and pump which makes pumping water from the borehole and storing it in tanks even easier.

    He has become a household name earning him the name Mkala in his village. The quick turnarounds and returns especially with his condition have challenged most of the other locals to delve into farming which they traditionally disregarded.

    Majority of them praise Kimathi for a farming revolution that has seen jobs created, more students now accessing education, and idle youth finding income and careers in farming.

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