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    Four young farmers have been advised on best farming practices, financial management, niche marketing and value-addition.

    By Vanessa Mukhebi, Mediae

    More than 3 milion East African farmers are set to benefit from a television show named “Don’t lose The Plot” courtesy of The Mediae Company. The show aims to promote agribusiness and ensure the youth change their mindsets towards agriculture.

    The show began airing on Citizen TV Kenya and ITV Tanzania from 30th April 2017 and concluded a few weeks ago on 3rd August 2017. The show was a competition which involved four farmers from Kenya and Tanzania and was supported by several development organizations with the aim of encouraging the youth to venture into agribusiness.

    According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the average age of farmers in Africa is about 60 years, despite the fact that 60 per cent of Africa’s population is under 24 years of age. Small scale farmers form the bulk of this population.

    It doesn’t take a great leap of the imagination to discern that there is a lackluster perception of agriculture amongst young people. Whilst there are several push factors such as limited access to capital and land, for majority of the world’s youth, agriculture isn’t considered as a viable or ‘cool’ career venture.

    With an ageing population of farmers, the uptake of agriculture by this demographic is critical in ensuring food security in the years to come.

    The four farmers, Leah, Issah, Winrose & Kenneth were each given one acre plots to farm side-by-side for a growing season, competing to win an agricultural investment worth US $10,000.

    All four contestants were unemployed and most of them assisted their parents with farm work back home. Not having a prior commitment, such as work or schooling was crucial for the show, so that the contestants were able to fully commit for nine months, without any distraction. All four farmers lived on the Don't Lose the Plot (DLTP) farm located in Kamangu, Kenya during the entire 9 months period.

    The contestants were required to do research and choose what crops to grow and livestock to rear, and then pitch their ideas and budgets to the judges before receiving loans for their farm inputs.

    Throughout the nine month period, the four have learnt to get their hands dirty under the guidance of various experts in the agriculture sector, advising them along the way on best farming practices, financial management, niche marketing and value-addition.

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    Winrose engaged in broiler chicken farming, potatoes, kales, spinach, onions, butternut and cabbage farming. Issah took part in broiler chicken farming, spinach, kales, butternut, tomatoes and cabbage farming. Ken on the other hand practiced dairy cow farming, cultivated onions, coriander, kales and spinach while Leah planted tomatoes, potatoes, mushroom and capsicum. 

    The contestants sold their produce throughout the competition, during two growing seasons. They had been given ample information on marketing prior to selling their produce, and they were advised by the experts to look for market before they began farming, which they all did, so they sold their crops immediately after harvesting. They went and looked for buyers on their own by visiting vegetable markets, hotels and neighbors.

    Winrose, the female contestant from Tanzania was the ultimate winner of the agricultural investment and has used a portion to purchase a dairy cow and several flock of kienyeji chicken. She also grows Irish potatoes. Through the sale of her milk, meat and eggs, she has managed to become self-employed and has a stable income. In so doing, she's become independent from her parents, and has used the farming knowledge she gained during the competition, to improve her farming methods as well as pass on that knowledge to others. 

     Still, the journey to success has been marked with a set of challenges.  From overly ambitious budgets to disease-stricken crops, but as Ken, one of the contestants put it, “success is not an instant coffee affair.”

    The show “Don’t Lose the Plot” is watched by over three million viewers in Kenya and Tanzania. “The show has given audiences the opportunity to learn from the contestants’ mistakes and triumphs, emulate them, and be inspired to own, lease and run agribusinesses of their own.” Noted Patricia Gichinga, the producer of the show

    The learning experience has largely been aided by Budget Mkononi, the show’s web-based agricultural budgeting tool that helps aspiring and inexperienced farmers view estimated costs and revenues of various commodities. They are then able to edit costs to reflect their specific circumstances, so that their budgets are realistic and personalized. Thus, allowing viewers at home the opportunity to become farming heroes of their own.

     

     

     

     

     

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                 CHICKS, Mary Poultry farm, nakuru, by Laban Robert.JPG

                Indigenous chicks feeding.The poultry sector in Kenya contributes approximately 1.7% to Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

    Active and prospective farmers encounter various challenges in their day to day farming lives. These range from low production output, difficulties in controlling diseases and adoption of management interventions. This is due to inadequate training or lack of information on management of their farms especially in indigenous poultry management where chicken are mostly kept in a free range system.

    The Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) has thus chipped in and is conducting training for first-hand poultry farmers, extension officers, supervisors and trainee farmers/farm managers on indigenous chicken management.

     Since 2016, KALRO has provided training to over 2,500 farmers from all the 47 counties in Kenya. “We are offering this training to farmers to enhance their performance and overall productivity” says Vincent Ochieng, one of the officers in charge of training at KALRO. “Before, farmers had challenges in controlling diseases like gumboro, Newcastle & coccidiosis which can be prevented by simple vaccination through a new vaccine called avivax which we have developed at KALRO” added Ochieng.

     The short training course provides an excellent background into the “what”, “why” and “how” on improved indigenous chicken management. The training is held at KALRO Non-Ruminant Institute-Naivasha Centre on selected dates depending on the applicants’ convenience.

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     The training is a four day hands on practice where farmers and other interested parties are taken through all the aspects of Indigenous Chicken production, though with an agribusiness point of view. Participants are engaged in theoretical classes in the morning sessions, and then the afternoon is spent on practical work based on the morning sessions.

    Areas covered by the training include;

    • Selection and breeding
    • Bio-security
    • Disease diagnosis and management
    • Vaccine handling and usage
    • Vices related to production and their management
    • Hatchery management
    • Chick brooding and placement
    • Feeding and feed formulation
    • Housing
    • Information Technology in poultry production
    • Economics and record keeping.

    Training costs Ksh. 20,000 which caters for meals, facilitation fees and local transportation to and from Naivasha town. A fee of Ksh. 300 per day is charged to small scale farmers who go for training as members of a group at least 20 members and cannot afford the sh. 20,000 fee for four days. An individual farmer can also visit KALRO office on any working day and get free training.

    Kenya’s Vision 2030 places great importance on value addition in agriculture and livestock as a means of raising rural household incomes as captured by the sector's driving strategy, the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy 2010-2020.

    The poultry sector in Kenya contributes approximately 1.7% to Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The sector is majorly important to over 70% of the rural population where the industry is a major source of food, income and self-employment.

     KALRO also provide training in hatching management, poultry record keeping, poultry health management and supervisory skills in poultry management.

     

     

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