Harrison Muriuki is not your ordinary farmer. Behind the gentle personality and soft demeanour is an aggressive resolve to educate farmers on low cost farm management practices that recently saw him crowned the overall winner in the small agro dealer category of the National Farmers Awards competition organized by agro input company Elgon Kenya Limited and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Among the spoils was shaking hands with the President who presented the awards. It has been a make or break journey for Muriuki who has surmounted major knocks to create a brand that has now become a household name in Meru county.
Having left Mt. Kenya University where he studied Animal Health and production four years ago, he wasn’t interested in working for anyone. He wanted to move freely and interact with farmers. Armed with nothing but a drive to rid the farmers from the endemic ignorance in farming, Muriuki set up Ruiri Farmers Centre, an agrovet center that he would later turn into a farmers’ library.
Located in Buri area of Meru County the Centre is in Ruiri market a factor that has assisted Muriuki in getting more customers to his shop. And they have been coming in droves. At first it was the usual business of buying and selling. But poor use of some of the products, coupled with farmers’ approach to farming as a job for the poor would see him transform his shop to a knowledge center.
This he would also do anytime he got a request to supply drugs to the farmers. “I made it my personal duty to make sure that I create knowledge before selling my products. Knowledge in terms of cheap ways of increasing soil fertility, easier ways of handling animal diseases among others. The beauty of it is that I have seen change, lots of it,” said Muriuki.
Yet it hasn’t been a walk in the park, whose clientele spans over 50kilometers from his shop. With his modest motorbike he canvasses towns, riding through rough terrain to grow knowledge. But his efforts have paid off.
“When I started this venture, I knew what exactly I was getting myself into. I could have looked for a lucrative job in the government or a good private company. And then what? I personally feel I wouldn’t have served my fellow farmers well in those offices. I wanted a place where I could allocate myself enough time to share with as many farmers as possible. To some of us, this kind of work is a calling,” he added.
This calling saw him save tens of farmers in his area from acidic soils that had taken toil of maize yields. When farmers came calling and he went to their farms, he realized the problem was bigger than they thought and immediately sought the help of soil experts who through soil sampling diagnosed poor farming techniques as the problem. That is among the many occurrences he has stepped in to resolve which has seen him earn the title Mr. Fix it.
Agricultural farmers keen on reaching many farmers scramble for his attention because they know of his wider reach. Churches on the other hand have warmed up to his model and even give him time to address the congregation majority who are farmers.
His newfound fame and glory has not eroded his sense of responsibility and service to his community. Though sales have more than doubled and heads now keep turning every time he passes, with some calling him the President’s farmer after seeing him photographed with the president who awarded him the president, Muriuki says the journey has just started.
“There is so much I need to do with the farmers because there is so much to teach and train. I want to open a resource center, stocked with modern technology to reach as many farmers as possible. My people perish for lack of information, the good book tells us, and we cant let ours drown especially because they feed us and the nation,” said Muriuki.