Polytechnic club entices youth to farming

An agribusiness club targeting rural youth and those in polytechnics is recording success as youth who had traditionally left farming to their parents return to the soils buoyed by modern farming techniques that are increasing yields and increasing markets.

In Nakuru county where farming is the backbone of the county, lack of modern farming techniques, failed rains and inadequate financial services for smallholder farmers has meant that farmers have  been stuck with age old farming techniques despite changing times. The result has been poor yields and a frustrated youth with no jobs and no earnings from farming.

But an initiative dubbed Agribusiness Club of Subukia YP has changed mentalities and pockets. In Subukia and six other youth polytechnics across Nakuru County, the club has facilitated the establishment of demonstration gardens, animal husbandries and cottage industries, in order to expose the rural youth to practical skills in the complex chain from ecologically friendly agricultural production through value addition and food processing to marketing, distribution and sale of food products around villages, towns and cities. The idea is to support young small-holder farmers to maximise profits from their land, make them stay and choose agribusiness as a means of living.

Moses one of the youth in Subukia found interest in farming  after joining the Subukia Agribusiness Club. "When I joined the YP, I was focusing on finishing my course and moving from school, but from this project I have gained a lot of knowledge which has helped me think otherwise.  I have realized that you can do farming and God can bless you and you produce a lot of products which can really improve your standards of living. So for me I have decided to focus on farming instead of migrating," Moses said.

 After going through the training, Moses acquired skills such as how to grow crops without using chemicals, how to practice crop rotation, rear livestock, as well as various value addition techniques. "From this project I have learnt that it is possible to do farming without using chemicals and fertilizers. I have tried this at home and it is better than using chemicals. Although fertilizers accelerate crops growth, organic crops are healthier and nutritious. This is an advantage because at home we have a lot of manure, thus reducing the cost of purchasing fertilizer. So I will only need to buy seeds. I have practiced this at home and I have seen a lot of improvement."

These skills were particularly useful, given that Moses is one of the 15 children of a small-holder farmer, Mr Paul Ndonye, who was the sole breadwinner of the family. Paul has witnessed his son's growing interest in farming and appreciated Moses's help around the family farm. "Even when I am not around I leave the farm under his care and I am comfortable with it," Paul said. Moses has been sharing the acquired skills and knowledge with the family members, but also with his immediate community. "For the family, they always ask me to train them on what we have learnt in the school on farming and livestock rearing and they are happy about it,” he said.  “A District Officer and other people from the area came to school to learn on farming and enquire why maize is being affected by diseases. I was given the opportunity to talk with them and I informed them that maize disease could be caused by prolonged use of fertilizer and failure to practice crop rotation thus causing soil infertility."

At the father's farm, Moses constructed a small garden to practice the techniques he had learned at the ABS club. After a few months he managed to harvest his first yield. From the profit he had made he was able to pay school fees without having to ask for father's help. This was very encouraging for him and prompted even more interest in agribusiness. "Once I am finished with my course I will go back home and start farming as I have realized that farming can be a good business which I can advance once I am through."