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    Mil­lions of farm­ers in Africa are now har­vest­ing two to three times more grain com­pared to 10 years ago thanks to im­proved avail­ab­il­ity of and ac­cess to high yield­ing, high-qual­ity seed ac­cord­ing to es­tim­ates by the Al­li­ance for a Green Re­volu­tion in Africa (AGRA).

    In a  pub­lic­a­tion track­ing the work of the Pro­gramme for Africa’s Seed Sys­tems (PASS), an AGRA ini­ti­at­ive cov­er­ing 18 coun­tries, the or­gan­iz­a­tion says farm­ers in many of these coun­tries are har­vest­ing yields of up to 5 met­ric tons per hec­tare, up from an av­er­age of about 1 met­ric ton be­fore the pro­gramme was star­ted.

    Under the pro­gramme which spanned 10 years, more than 600 new vari­et­ies of major African crops have been bred and re­leased. In ad­di­tion, 112 local, private seed com­pan­ies have been es­tab­lished, up from 10 in 2007 in the whole of sub-Saha­ran Africa ex­clud­ing South Africa. As a res­ult, over 600,000 MT of high-qual­ity, high-yield­ing seeds have been pro­duced and dis­trib­uted to an es­tim­ated 15 mil­lion farm­ers, with sig­ni­fic­ant im­pact on yields and in­come. The dis­tri­bu­tion has been done through a net­work of about 20,000 private, vil­lage-based agro-deal­ers who have been trained and sup­por­ted to set up small rural shops that bring the seeds closer to farm­ers.

    Speak­ing at the launch of the book, the AGRA Pres­id­ent, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, ob­served that es­tab­lish­ing a vi­able sys­tem for the sup­ply
of qual­ity, high-yield­ing seed is an es­sen­tial com­pon­ent of ag­ri­cul­tural trans­form­a­tion.

    “Ini­ti­at­ives like PASS are con­trib­ut­ing to a new image of African ag­ri­cul­ture that is far from the scenes of low pro­ductiv­ity and wide­spread rural poverty of pre­vi­ous dec­ades. Today, many farm­ing house­holds are get­ting double and triple yields lead­ing to higher in­comes. They also have ac­cess to crops that are more nu­tri­tious, that are drought and pest res­ist­ant, and that cook faster using less fire­wood and sav­ing both the en­vir­on­ment and time,” Dr. Kalibata said.

    Related News: AGRA launches Africa’s ag­ri­cul­ture bible

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    “In­creas­ing the sup­ply of im­proved seeds will con­tinue to play a cru­cial role in grow­ing Africa’s eco­nom­ies through ag­ri­cul­ture, but will be made more sus­tain­able, we be­lieve, through the de­vel­op­ment of the en­tire food value chain espexi­ally by private local agri-busi­nesses, more for­ward look­ing policies, and stronger reg­u­lat­ory in­sti­tu­tions,” she said.

    Dr. Joe DeV­ries, AGRA’s Vice Pres­id­ent for Pro­gram De­vel­op­ment and In­nov­a­tion, noted that the work of PASS has helped farm­ers to in­crease their pro­ductiv­ity and well­being. “We are really pleased to see that farm­ers across the con­tin­ent have ad­op­ted the new seed. But, the really good news is that crop yields in sev­eral coun­tries are in­creas­ing for the first time in dec­ades,” said Dr. DeV­ries.

    “It is ex­tremely grat­i­fy­ing to see that this cata­lytic in­vest­ment of about $300 mil­lion in the na­tional seed sec­tor across the con­tin­ent over the last dec­ade has yiel­ded a good har­vest and laid the found­a­tion for Africa to feed it­self,” he added.

    Related News: State initiates nationwide farmer registration to deliver subsidised fertiliser & seed

    Ac­cord­ing to the book, en­titled, The PASS Jour­ney: Seed­ing an African Seed Re­volu­tion, launched today, the trans­form­a­tion of the ag­ri­cul­ture sec­tor is crit­ical to Africa’s eco­nomic prosper­ity. An im­proved ag­ri­cul­ture means food se­cur­ity for all and growth of agri-based en­ter­prises res­ult­ing in job cre­ation, es­pe­cially for the youth.

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    Avocado photo by mt-kenya-avocado-farmer.jpg

    A char­ac­ter­istic fea­ture of Kenya’s small­holder ag­ri­cul­ture is the dom­in­ance of primary pro­duc­tion. This nor­mally in­volves pro­duc­tion of low volume of pro­duce at the in­di­vidual farm level for sub­sist­ence and sub­sequent mar­ket­ing of sur­plus in raw or semi-pro­cessed form.

    Lim­ited on-farm and off-farm pro­cessing of ag­ri­cul­tural pro­duce has trans­lated to low prices, fewer job op­por­tun­it­ies and even­tu­ally low in­come for farm­ers. This can be at­trib­uted to the chal­lenge of in­ad­equate ad­op­tion of new tech­no­lo­gies and in­nov­a­tions, ma­na­gerial and tech­nical skills to ef­fect­ively es­tab­lish and man­age vi­able ag­ribusi­nesses.

    De­vel­op­ing a dy­namic and com­pet­it­ive ag­ribusi­ness re­quires not only en­hanced tech­nical and ma­na­gerial skills but also greater mar­ket­ing ori­ent­a­tion and net­work­ing; bet­ter mar­ket in­form­a­tion and bet­ter link­ages with ser­vice pro­viders.

    Related News: Ag­ri­cul­tural centre trains over 1, 800 farm­ers yearly for free

    Related News: Mfarm em­powers small­holder farm­ers with easy mar­ket ac­cess

    Ac­cord­ing to a journal pub­lished by the Kenya Ag­ri­cul­tural Pro­ductiv­ity Pro­ject, farm­ers lack ma­na­gerial skills which in­clude en­tre­pren­eur­ship, busi­ness plan­ning, fin­an­cial man­age­ment and in­nov­a­tions. They also need tech­nical skills in hus­bandry man­age­ment, food pro­cessing, qual­ity and stand­ards con­trol, and mar­ket­ing.

    What needs to be done?

    • Busi­ness plan de­vel­op­ment – small­holder farm­ers need to de­velop busi­ness plans with the as­sist­ance of ag­ri­cul­tural ex­ten­sion of­ficers to guide their pro­jects to suc­cess­ful im­ple­ment­a­tion. Busi­ness plan­nin­gis key to a be­gin­ner farmer for It helps be­gin­ning farm­ers plan for the eco­nomic sus­tain­ab­il­ity of a new farm en­ter­prise.
    • Train­ing - Many farm­ers in rural areas do not have the most up-to-date in­form­a­tion on how to grow food ef­fi­ciently and eco­nom­ic­ally. Im­prov­ing their know­ledge of new tech­niques and tech­no­lo­gies, in ad­di­tion to provid­ing them with any phys­ical re­sources ne­ces­sary for im­ple­ment­a­tion, can dra­mat­ic­ally in­crease the farm­ers’ level of pro­ductiv­ity. Farm­ers can seek help from ag­ri­cul­tural ex­ten­sion of­ficers within their jur­is­dic­tion to achieve this.
    • Farmer edu­ca­tion pro­grams – edu­cat­ing farm­ers’ leads to in­creased local food avail­ab­il­ity, in­creased farmer in­come and in­creased sus­tain­ab­il­ity of ag­ri­cul­tural prac­tices.
    • Pro­mot­ing form­a­tion of farm­ers’ groups - farm­ers need to form small­holder groups in order to max­im­ize the power of num­bers in input and out­put ac­quis­i­tion and in mar­ket­ing their pro­duce.

    Related News: Farm­ers re­sort to bench mark­ing to im­prove on pro­duc­tion

    Com­mer­cial­iz­a­tion under the small­holder-dom­in­ated ag­ri­cul­ture can suc­ceed if farm­ers are em­powered to bal­ance sub­sist­ence farm­ing and com­mer­cial ag­ri­cul­ture.

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    BiogasbrooderLaban                                                                Photo: Laban Robert.

    Farm­ers with bio­gas di­gesters can cut elec­tri­city and ker­osene brood­ing costs by using the gas in rais­ing the chicks.

    A 6-foot by 3-foot by 4feet struc­ture se­cured by a thin-eyed wire mesh from above the hold­ing area, which is about three and a half feet off the ground. This is ac­cord­ing to a model from Flexi Bio­gas Tech­no­lo­gies.

    The gas from the source is con­nec­ted to a per­for­ated pan-covered burner at the base of the struc­ture.

    The heat from the burner warms the pan, which also trans­fers the heat to the en­vir­on­ment con­ven­tion­ally.

    The struc­tures is covered all around with a trans­par­ent poly­thene sheet. The burner should be placed cent­rally to avoid melt­ing the thick gauge sheet.

    Brooders are kept within 32 de­grees Celsius and 34 de­grees Celsius from the first day the chicks are in­tro­duced. The tem­per­at­ure is re­duced slowly until the room tem­per­at­ure by the fourth week, when the chicks have enough feath­ers to help them reg­u­late tem­per­at­ures without ex­ternal help.

     Chick tem­per­at­ure is about 39 de­grees Celsius on the first day but after one week, it raises to about 41 de­grees Celsius, which is the nor­mal body heat for a ma­ture chicken.

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    The struc­ture can host 50 chicks. A ther­mo­meter comes in handy in de­term­in­ing the tem­per­at­ure of the brooder. If the tem­per­at­ure goes higher than the re­quired, the poly­thene sheets are opened to allow for more heat to come into the struc­ture.

    Sim­il­arly, the gas inlet has a tap that reg­u­lates the flame to in­crease or re­duce the heat out­put.

    Flexi Bio­gas Tech­no­logy of­ficer Richard On­diek said the move is one of the com­pany’s pro­jects of help­ing farm­ers util­ise farm wastes to cut down pro­duc­tion costs and boost earn­ings.

    Related News: Plastic bio­gas di­gesters fit chan­ging live­stock size

    “Such off the power grid en­ergy green solu­tions en­sure that farm­ers are not dis­cour­aged from in­vest­ing in luc­rat­ive ven­tures of their choice. This in­deed is a cost-free way of en­sur­ing that a farmer is bet­ter placed in re­cyc­ling waste for use in en­ergy con­sum­ing activ­it­ies without end-month bills,” On­diek said.

    The com­pany fixes bio­gas di­gesters that can handle dung from one to more than five cows.

    On­diek can be reached on +254724971553

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