Every year between April and June, over 600 farmers receive free training on various agricultural practices both in crop production and livestock rearing, at a center that now boasts of having created agriculture millionaires.
Waruhiu Agricultural Training Centre situated in Kiambu County is similar to ordinary classrooms, yet different in the key aspects, especially for farmers. The training is never theoretical, as the trainers believe in touching, seeing, and hearing the matter in convincing the farmers. “While most of the farmers who come to this center are predominantly from Kiambu County, the center is open to farmers across the country. We are glad we have received the majority of them from all corners of the country either here to learn more or make inquiries about farm management practices,” said Mr. Joseph Mureithi, the principal of the center.
Each year the center carries 30 field training sessions ranging from selecting of good livestock breeds, how to breed them, value addition of various crops, how to manage greenhouses, and tending to sensitive crops among others. “The center is not just about training, it is also about answering questions from farmers, and the farmers are keen on asking questions. It is that interest that keeps us motivated. We also run a mobile phone tutoring programme where farmers can contact us through their phones and get responses spot on,” Mureithi added.
The center works closely with research institutions, universities, and not-for-profit organizations to acquire more knowledge on the latest developments in the agricultural sector which they then share with the farmers. These include new crop varieties, new farm technologies, or any new threats to crops or livestock that might be important to farmers. For new varieties especially those that are high yielding, the center grows them on the farm to allow visiting farmers to learn by seeing and touching.
On average the training takes one day. From the 600 farmers who currently train, the center hopes to reach 1,000 farmers by spreading the word about the center, The center commits Sh8 million each year to training while Sh4 million goes into farming that takes place there.
The center is bridging the acute information gap that has been occasioned by a reduced number of government extension officers who were traditionally the carriers of information on matters of agriculture. There are currently 5000 extension officers in Kenya translating into one extension officer for 1200 farmers.
But such centers have also been hailed by research bodies like Food and Agriculture Organization as potent in information dissemination among smallholder farmers. This, the institutions say is due to the peer sharing that has been proven as a key communication channel, especially in agriculture.
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