Thousands of small holder farmers in Vihiga County are now learning new farming techniques, improving food production, thanks to village farming libraries, an initiative by MFAGRO, a local farmers’ organization that has specialized in offering extension services to the farmers in the county.
Those libraries are fitted with relevant agricultural publications ranging from farm management and crop production, enabling farmers to acquire knowledge on how to deal with day to day farming problems that greatly contribute to food insecurity in the region.
According to Dick Morgan Ongai, MFAGRO Activities Coordinator, a farmer is charged only Sh5 to read several books in the library and those willing to extend the reading to their homes can borrow a book for Sh20 a day. This, he said has revolutionized new farming techniques like planting of high value crops to replace the traditional maize and beans farming that has rendered soils infertile.
‘’Farmers in rural areas barely access vital information especially on farming hence poor farming practises that hugely contribute to poor yields hence food insecurity,’’ said Ongai. He said that close to 1000 members of MFAGRO have embarked on nitrogen fixation programme to replenish tired soils on their farms, knowledge they have acquired through reading and field days often conducted by the organisation.
Through those knowledge hubs, farmers in the county have for instance dumped maize for soya beans, a high value leguminous crop that is not only helping to fix nitrogen in the soils but also earning them foreign currency. ‘’Our farmers now produce produce over 2.5 tons of improved legume seed per season which we sell to our partners in manufacturing sector and export some to Ethiopia,’’ said Ongai.
Ongai said that the county is experiencing the power of information and urged stakeholders in the agricultural sector to work to towards enlightening farmers if food security is to be realized. A part from village library in Itando, the organization has set up a demo farm at Munugi Primary School where farmers learn different farming techniques.
According to AGRA report 2013, lack of modern farming skills amongst small holder farmers was blamed for poor yields. The report noted that, while there is a lot publication on farming, farmers where not accessing the information due to high illiteracy and lack of access due to high costs.
The report while hailing internet as the alternative source of information to farmers, it lamented the low penetration saying only 5 per cent of small holder farmers in Africa can access it while a whopping 90 per cent of them lack computer skills.