The Kenya Agricultural Institute(KARI) in collaboration with Fresh Produce and Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK) has launched a modern state of the art farmer training center to train farmers on production, value addition and marketing in the horticultural sector at a time when the sector is reeling from continued ban of its produces in key export markets due to poor production standards.
The center dubbed Practical Training Centre (PTC) sits on a 200 hectares land in Thika and accomodates different categories of horticultural produce including flowers, mushrooms, herbs and nuts among others. The center is targeting growers and smallholder groups and is capitalizing on the practical aspects where the students will be taken through the production, the marketing and even adding value to the produces they produce in a bid to diversify the markets. “Here, farmers will be exposed to the practical ways of successfully growing all types of horticultural produce,”said FPEAK Chief executive Stephen Mbithi.
The center has five units including the administration department which manages the facilities in the center. It has a maximum 52 bed farmer accomodation capacity and classes that can sit up to 20 trainees. The fruits unit has a nursery with a capacity of producing 1 million seedlings of various tropical fruits and nuts. It seeks to train commercial nursery managersand farmers on the sensitive fruit production processeses including use of clean and appropriate farming tools to rid the fruits off diseases.
Within the unit is a 40 hectare orchard section where fruits are to be planted in one acre units for demonstration of good orchard management practices and business skills.The vegetable units has an irrigated field of 20 hectares divided into quarter hectare units planted with various vegetables grown in Kenya for both export and domestic markets. Fruit growing procedures like management of soil fertility, use of agrochemicals and irrigation technologies among other best practices are taught.
In the flower unit, is a one hectare greenhouse with four varieties of fully grown T hybrid roses and four hectares of summer flowers on the outside. The center has been attracting both local and international visitors even before its official launch. From 2012 to date, the Centre has trained over 2,000 farmers, farm workers, agricultural extension officers and other industry players through various partnerships.
“The project does not duplicate fundamental training provided by local universities. Rather it seeks to add value by giving the practical skills necessary to work in modern horticulture production,”read a statement from the centre.
Jus last year FPEAK launched a Swahili translation of the global quality standards manual to help horticultural farmers understand the standards they must observe, following failures by individual farmers that have triggered a run of outright bans on all Kenyan goods.
Dubbed The Global GAP Swahili, the manual contains all of the world’s harmonised agricultural standards commonly called Global Good Agricultural Practice (Global-GAP). It is also to be rolled out across the other East African nations to help smallholders with the technical procedures required to sell in export market, for example, explaining to growers how to run their production to safeguard the health of consumers, workers and animals.