Two years ago, Amiran Kenya launched a small-holders greenhouse kit that is now being used to entice a new generation of “facebook farmers” from among high school and polytechnic students. The Amiran Next Generation Farmers Initiative, described as the promotion of ‘brain-fed’ agriculture over ‘rain-fed’ agriculture, has recorded a sharp take off thanks to collaborative efforts by the government, private sector and individual members of parliament.
The Amiran kit, which delivers a greenhouse, drip irrigation system, water tank, seeds, fertilizer, training and agro support has so far been installed in 250 schools countrywide and is targeting 6500 secondary schools in its first phase. It is being used to demonstrate the high returns that can be made from smart agribusiness.
From the initial investment of Sh150,000, a farmer can make up to Sh400,000 a year from the kit, with harvests running continuously for up to a year.
It is this level of returns that is being used to entice younger farmers, alongside colourful advertising campaigns with the message that farming is “cool”, with as much money to be made from agribusiness as from the white collar jobs the youth desire.
Fighting the perception that the average age of the Kenyan farmer is over 55 years, Amiran has also made noise about the average age of its own farmers, which is below 35.
Industry players are optimistic the Amiran kit will attract the new Facebook farmers following a pilot scheme in 50 schools, which saw youngsters selling produce in their local markets, and registered 95 per cent success, with students recording a heightened appreciation of agribusiness.
The government through the Ministry of Youth Affairs has since purchased and installed 100 of the Amiran kits in 100 youth polytechnics, with another 660 in the pipeline, as part of its plan to shift polytechnics’ focus from the traditional areas of masonry, plumbing and carpentry to more profitable courses like agribusiness.
“We are not going to do rain-fed agriculture because we have not succeeded in it. We will now do brain-fed agriculture,” said Dr Dinah Mwinzi, director of training at the Ministry of Youth Affairs.
Individual MPs have also taken up the cause. In Yatta Constituency in the dry expanse of Eastern Province Member of Parliament Charles Kilonzo has invested in the project through the constituency development fund and with the support of humanitarian organizations such as the Kenya Red Cross. The farmers’ kits have been installed in 22 local primary and secondary schools with the MP promising additional support for the initiative.
“We will also construct boreholes to ensure that in every place where there is a borehole, farmers can then purchase the kits as water is accessible,” said the Mr Kilonzo during the launch of the project in his constituency, which drew the Minister for Planning and Vision 2030 Mr. Wycliffe Oparanya, the Kenya Red Cross Society, and the Ministry of Youth Affairs.
Early this year, Amiran Kenya won the Millennium Development Goals Trust Fund Award for the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger for its introduction of the smallholder greenhouses, with the kits so far achieving particularly strong uptake in the arid and dry regions of Eastern and North Eastern Kenya, as well as across the country’s towns and cities.
Written by Bob Koigi for African Laughter
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