Food security as one of the big 4 agendas is greatly affected by climate change. Due to global warming, farmers can no longer rely on rain-fed agriculture as the rain patterns have changed and are unpredictable. In the previous years, farmers could prepare early in time for they knew when the rains would come and hence food production was certain. Things have changed, rains are unpredictable, food production has decreased while the population of Africa keeps increasing. The population of Sub-Saharan Africa is rising at an estimated 3.2% per annum. The rising populations in countries mean demand for a reliable harvest is growing for with the rains or not, we must eat and therefore man must find a means of survival.

Cabbage farm at kwa kyai irrigation scheme

Barely two months after the president admitted that we as a nation can not feed ourselves,people are dying.Drought has hit us hard in most parts of the country.The meteorological department has predicted heavy rains anytime from now and soon,floods will be another crisis we will have to tackle as a nation.It is high time that we use the rains to our advantage and be prepared for the long dry seasons ahead after the rains have stopped.

Tomatoes under irrigation.

Small-holder farmers’ irrigation is a climate resilience option that needs to be adopted in the fight to eradicate hunger. Africa is endowed with an abundance of water resources, and therefore has a great potential to expand its irrigation systems if these resources are put to better use. Boosting rainwater harvesting and building small dams to capture runoff may help many farmers in areas where groundwater is limited. Irrigating our lands also means farmers can extend the growing season, increase productivity and incomes, and improve their livelihoods. Investing in irrigation could help protect the region’s food security in the face of more extreme weather conditions driven by climate change and be an engine of development.

Agriculture does not exist in a vacuum but its existence is triggered by various factors which influences and determines its performance. Some factors may hinder its growth while others may accelerate its growth .Research should be well carried out before any agricultural activity is started in order to curb all negative factors and make the favorable .Just like any other business investment, agriculture can turn out to be the deadliest investment when not well packaged. Some factors include human factors, biotic factors, climatic factors and edaphic factors.

factors affecting agriculture in Kenya

Human factors have a great impact in agriculture. This factors cuts across transport and communication sector. Imagine growing perishable good like French beans in a remote area where transport is a challenge, this will hinder transporting your produce to market especially during rainy seasons. Cultural and religious beliefs do not only affect how people behave and interact but also what farming can be carried .example among Muslims pig farming will not do well due to the systems.

Overall economy of the nation determines the purchasing power of agricultural products, a well-financed people will purchase more unlike Low income people. Farmers should carry a market research to determine purchasing power and what consumers want before planting .Government policies can make you a successful farmer or valueless farmers depending on if the policies favor you.

farm training

Biotic factors like pest’s disease, parasites and predators are the farmer’s worst enemies ever .pests can attack food in the farm while some attack food after harvesting like the weevils. Some pests spread disease to crops like the streak in maize which is spread by hoppers.parasaties attack livestock like the tsetse flies while pathogens are responsible for causing a lot of diseases in crops and they include bacteria and fungi. Despite the negative impacts by biotic factors some are useful to farmers in many ways. Some animals are used to aid in cross pollination, decomposition and nitrogen fixation.

effects of pests

Before farming farmers should analyze Climatic factors that range from amount, quantity and reliability of rainfall, the temperatures and wind.High temperatures increase transpiration and evaporation rate and may cause wilting. Temperatures can be cause of diseases in crops like in coffee. Windy areas should be keenly evaluated based on what type of crop is to be grown. Wind assists in pollination, seed dispersal and facilitates soil formation .It however affects negatively by spreading pests and disease, high evaporation rate which may cause wilting and distortion of perennial crops.

soil sampling

Type of soil is crucial, how fertile is your soil? Soil texture and soil PH affects the types of crops to be planted. Soil also determines water holding capacity and drainage .some crops require acidic soils while others do well in alkaline soils. Soil testing helps framer to know which crops to be grown because extreme PH affects growth of crops.

By: Patricia M Kombo

patriciah@africafarmers.org

Local markets are flooded with imported goods ranging from garlic, eggs, rice and watermelons just to mention but a few. Kenya as a country relies on agriculture to sustain our economy but with the current state, it looks like loans from the west are replacing everything.

The importation of goods that are grown by our local farmers serves as a discouragement to them as they end up selling their produce at a throw away price due to the high competition created. These imported goods once they are in the market, they go at a low price for example the eggs from Uganda. The price at which they are being sold is appealing to the buyers and hence they opt for them. If the local farmer sells his eggs at the same price as the Ugandan eggs, then he will be counting losses.

Eggs in a tray.

As a country we ought to stand together and support our farmers. If we kill the very people who strive hard to feed us, how then shall we eradicate poverty? The only way we shall eradicate poverty and elevate the standards of living is through supporting each other and not thinking of ourselves as individuals.

For instance, Yes, we think of that cheap commodity and decide to save some few coins by purchasing it. You go home satisfied; the Kenyan famer ends up not selling his commodity. He goes home and the same happens the next day and the days after. No income. How will he sustain himself or his family? Exactly, this you don’t know and as a matter of fact, it is no bother to you. The cost of living has gone up and even the rich are complaining. What will the other people do?

Kenyan traders are importing up to 5 million eggs from Uganda yet there are a lot of poultry farmers who are left stranded with their eggs. The imported eggs have been cheaply produced and selling them in Kenya at a low price is not a problem as they still obtain several shillings above the production cost. For this reason, the Kenyan government has come in to rescue farmers. Egg importers now are required to obtain clearance from the Cabinet Secretary of Agriculture to allow them to import eggs. The move will protect the local poultry farmers from the unfair competition.

Poultry farming

Other than the government stepping up to protect the farmers, those on ground should be vigilant. We have no wall to separate us from our neighbor’s and therefore there are several routes that traders can use to enter Kenya. Unity is paramount for the government can not work alone to ensure the survival of the local poultry farmer.

Have you ever skipped a meal? Or even walked for a long distance without water? How did it feel? Like you would die if you don’t get food, right? Now imagine, someone has not had a meal for days, has walked miles just to get even a single drop of water. Leave alone for himself or herself but for that child staring at her blankly. Imagine a child staring at a starving mother, fragile as she is but still must stand strong for she is the hero to the child. A hero who can’t save herself, but she still must strive to save the child. She can neither offer food nor promise the child tomorrow but all she has is hope. Hope in her sunken eyes.

Devastating it is. To some, only a story they heard of in the 1984 famine in Ethiopia which caught the world’s attention. A story told through the lenses by the late Mohammed Amin (MO). This time, we are not talking of Ethiopia. We are talking of Kenya, Our home. Our Mama Land. People in Turkana are facing starvation. Children are dropping out of schools and must trek miles to escape from the jaws of starvation. Where they walk to, they know not. Will there be food there? Will they see tomorrow? These, they themselves can’t answer. All they know is that they must walk and keep walking for behind them is death walking closely, waiting to devour them. The region has not received any rains in the last 9 months. To make it worse, they recorded poor yields last year due to a locust invasion in irrigated areas using rivers Turkwel and Kerio. No food, No water, temperatures of up to 42 degrees is what they must endure in a fight to survive.

Images have flooded our mainstream media; the social media is filled with pictures of frail people staring at the photographers hoping the cameras will come with food. Nine people have already died of hunger in Turkana Central and the same fate awaits thousands of others if nothing is done. For this reason, Friends of Farmers for Zero Hunger have joined hands to transport food to affected areas, donate farm inputs, set up and train residents in the affected areas to start growing their food. We not only believe in feeding someone but also training them how to get their own food. For who will feed them once they have consumed all that was donated? It is high time that we end this vicious circle and be a hunger-free nation.

Join us in this worthy course #FarmersStandWithTurkana

Farming is not really a smooth path as people perceive it to be. Just like any other business, there are fears, worries and uncertainty of the future. It’s like life. We are never certain about tomorrow. Catherine,A friend of mine once planted cabbages and the outcome was amazing. Everything was perfect only for her to receive a call from her farm manager on the harvest day that elephants invaded the farm the night before and swept it clean. Devastating it is but what do you do? Do you give up? Now this is where your passion is determined. Those who farm out of passion will see it as just a challenge and reason enough to work harder the next season. For the others, it will be the end of their farming experience. They will forever remain bitter and live with the statement that “farming was not meant for me.”

Miss Catherine emphasizing on record keeping

During one of the farmers trainings we as Africa Farmers Club conduct, a farmer stood boldly and gave reasons why they do not keep farm records. This was after one of the trainers inquired if they kept farm records. “We fear knowing if we made profits or losses. Personally, I think it will be a discouragement and might even make me give up farming, “said the farmer. For them, they prefer to sell as they harvest without waiting for the whole harvesting to end and have a clear number of sacks or the record of the total harvest.

Mr.Dennis Nyandaya an agronomist during the Kipipiri field day

Keeping and analyzing accurate production records are important and essential aspects of farm management. Farm records are important to farmers as it acts as a guidance when setting the selling price of your goods. Furthermore, they help the farmer plan and mitigate risks. Failure to keep records makes farmers sell their produce without knowing their average costs. Every business person has a goal to make profits. Every single coin spent in the farm should be recorded from day one including the money spent on food for the Laborers to post-harvest expenses. The total amount should now be used to set your selling price. With record keeping, farmers make informed decisions.

Record keeping by Mr.Emmanuel Makokha

Farmers ought not be discouraged when they make losses but use it to determine where they went wrong and if there is need to change their, strategy then do so.

“When women are empowered and can claim their rights and success to land, leadership, opportunities and choices, economies grow, food security is enhanced and prospects are improved for current and future generations”, -Michelle Bachelet.

As the world marks the International Women’s Day, we remember the woman as a farmer for empowering the woman in the agricultural sector, is a step towards attaining food security and achieving zero hunger.

EPURI LEBASHA

Epuri Lebasha in the farm.

Epuri Lebasha, an agricultural engineer with a foundation in Agricultural science from the EARTH University in Costa Rica is the farmer shifting the narrative for farming in arid and semi-arid lands. She one day envisions a Northern Kenya that will step into the limelight to embrace as well as invest in agronomics.

“Farming is done in small slots and farmers mostly work in groups while utilizing the green houses, open field and shade nets as farming methods. The best thing about this is that, the supplies and produce goes to the local markets within Turkana. An achievement I am greatly proud of”, she says. Her motivation lies in seeing a food security for nomadic communities since they enormously depend on relief food distributed by NGOs and other donors. Her beliefs are deeply rooted in the nomadic communities to be able to grow their own food through the integration of nomadic practice and agriculture. An idea that is clearly seeing the daylight as days go by thanks to her efforts. This was also the underlying reason that pushed her to study in EARTH University.

The journey has not been a walk in the park. Some of the challenges faced include: being that it is a nomadic community in agricultural transition, sharing knowledge may prove to be a challenge since at times they prioritize livestock over agricultural crop production. There are also limited resources for the farmers to work with especially agro-inputs. She says efforts though have been put in place to change the mentality towards agricultural crop production among the pastoralists.

“Africa Farmers Club has had quite an impact”, she says. She draws her motivation from the organization since it encourages young farmers through expertise, exhibiting failures in farming and what experiences and lessons to be gained by presenting a learning opportunity.

It will be no shock to see the Northern Kenya region producing the greenest most leafy farm produce hence changing the debate about food security in the area by increasing yields and boosting the farmers’ profits.

CATHERINE KAMANO

Catherine Kamano

“Farming isn’t just a way to make a living. It is a way to make a life. I started farming in 2015 and everyday has been an experience of its own. Setbacks have been there, and the worst was when I had been promised a profit of 5M from planting onions only to get KSh.119000. Honestly, I got sick and was admitted for an illness I am yet to discover. Since that day I got shock absorbers and if that never took me down, then nothing will”, she said amidst a laugh.

For Catherine, her gender has never deterred her from her goals. At first, she would strike you as a silent lady, but you would be shocked when she gives orders and takes charge in her farm. The boss in her comes to life at the farm. “You have to be strict and firm when giving instructions especially if you are a young lady with men working in your farm. Its either they do it your way or they leave”, she added.

Though she comes from a family with zero farming backgrounds, she has managed her farming business and is the talk of the town for her RIVER VIEW farm is quite remarkable. At barely 30 years, Catherine grows a wide variety of crops ranging from kales, cabbages, watermelons, tomatoes and capsicums. Together with her best friend Sylvia who is also her partner in the farm, they are a role model to the today’s woman

SILVIA MAINA.

Sylvia Maina

“Quitting my office job for the farm has been one of those choices I look back at and smile. Yes, people called me crazy and if that is being crazy then officially I am crazy. Many ask if I ever regret it and I gladly tell them not even a single day. For me the farm is everything. There is some certain joy in watching your seeds sprout from the ground and moving with them till you harvest. Catherine has taught me so much that I needed to learn and everyday has been a learning day”, She told me as she gave me a tour of the farm.

With the decision made to venture into the agricultural field, Sylvia went out to look for a farm and after many consultations, she found a home at the banks or River Maragwa, Murang’a county. The discouragement they received from the people in the community was reason enough to work hard at all costs just to prove them wrong. Being a young woman farming in an area that was dominate by men was not easy and with time, they have become the darlings of the village.

The Farm girls in the farm

Sylvia believes that women have a great potential, but they must break the notion that they are an inferior gender.” It is all about believing in yourself and self-determination. If only women viewed themselves as experts who possess knowledge which compliments expert’s formal knowledge and not as mere beneficiaries, then we would be far”, she concluded.

As a society,it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation of women are educated, encouraged and empowered to take on the challenges of meeting the world’s growing food and fuel needs.

The availability of readily grown seedlings has come to the rescue of many” long-distance “farmers as it saves on them having to travel to the farms and check on the germination of the seeds. By long distance I mean farmers who do not reside at the farm for instance those living in the city but do farming in the countryside.

Today we have people raising seedlings and selling them while others are contracted to specifically propagate the seeds for a client and once the transplanting period comes, they can come for the seedlings or have them delivered in their farms according to the agreement they had. Transplanting is the process of moving a fully germinated seedling and replanting it in a permanent location for the growing season.

onion seedlings ready for transplanting.

Experts advice that planting seeds directly is riskier, since the seeds must put up with hazards such as adverse weather patterns, like drought or flood, high wind (for open-field farming), pests, and weeds. Seedlings are more resistant to pests, because they are more mature and stronger when transplanted. Many pests love snacking on the tiny seedlings. Therefore, the risk of losing the plants is lower as compared to seeds. Furthermore, the germination rate in seeds is lower as compared to planting seedlings. Seedlings will give you a significant head start on the season, since their maturity rate will be shorter and will result in an earlier harvest.

Seedlings being lifted

Transplanting is done when the weather is cool, preferably in the morning or evening because the plants can recover from root shock of transplanting. It is done when they are one month old or 4–6 leaves or about 10–15cm height. The healthy and vigorous seedlings are selected and lifted. The farmer should water the nursery 3–4 hours before lifting the seedlings from the soil. Doing so ensures that the seedling is lifted with some soil without disturbing the roots. Always ensure that the seedlings are planted at the same depth as they were in the nursery. For maximum growth, light mulching or shading should be done on the seedlings and watered on a regular basis.

Onion seedlings.

Farmers should adopt to the changing technologies in the field of agriculture to increase their production and reap more. Farming is only easy when a farmer is well informed and works closely with experts like the agronomists. Let us stay informed.

KEmpowering the farmer with information is key to achieving food security. In most cases, farmers lack proper knowledge and the few who have the information do not know how to apply it. The Kibwezi farmers field day that was held at Kwakyai irrigation scheme on 23rd February 2019 ,served to disseminate information to farmers and train them on how to apply it.

Registration of farmers

The event organized by Africa farmers club (AFC), an online platform that brings farmers together across Africa was one of a kind as it was farmer oriented. Some of the service providers who turned up for the event included; CropNuts, Syngenta, Monsanto, Agrosolutions and GreenLife

Farmers interacting with the trainers

In most cases, service providers have only one goal: to make sales and that is all that matters to them. How the farmer uses the product is none of their concern and hence the need to conduct such trainings. Farmers were sensitized on; crop protection, crop nutrition, soil fertility, seed quality and agribusiness. The training was divided into several sessions that’s the one on one visit interactions with the service providers at their stalls, the question and answer session, the panel discussion moderated by Mr. Noah Nasiali AFC Administrator and the actual visit to the farms under irrigation.

The panel discussion

Communication is only effective when the message relayed by the sender is decoded and understood by the receiver. Therefore, the trainers employed language translation to break language barriers as it was a mixed congregation breaking through culture, age, ethnic group and gender. Mr. Moses Kivungi a soil doctor insisted on the need to conduct a soil test before planting. With the soil test done the farmers can know which fertilizers suit the farm and the type of crop suitable for that soil. Making informed choices increases the productivity of the crops.

Mr.Moses Kivungi talking on Soil fertility

“There is need to seek expert advice on the appropriate fertilizers to use in farms. A farmer should do a scouting in the farm to check for any irregularities on the crops. The signs and symptoms will guide the farmers on the fertilizers required” Stated Miss Faith from Zelena Company. The trainers also focused on how to apply Fertilizer in the right manner. That is from the roots. Planting seedlings was preferred to seed as it is both economical and time consuming. According to Miss Mercy one of the trainers, it is advisable to buy seedlings especially for the farmers who do not stay in the farm. Travelling to check on planted seeds before they germinate is tiresome and there is no guarantee of all the seeds germinating. Furthermore, the seeds experience root shock which affects the germination. Seedlings have a 99% survival chance unlike the seeds for they do not experience root shock.

Miss Faith training on fertilizer application

After a long and informative session, the training could not end without a visit to the Kwakyai irrigation scheme where farmers have used gravity fed furrow to water their crops. Makueni being a dry region, the seasonal rains are unreliable. Indeed, the widened horizon of engagements and conversations created by the field day was worthwhile.

A kales farm at KyaKyai irrigation scheme
Visit to the farms under the irrigation scheme

The video coverage of the event is available in our youtube channel AFRICA FARMERS TV.

Baadhi ya wakulima wanaofanya kilimo kwenye maeneo kame au maeneo yaliyo nusu kame, uwekaji boji ni jambo la maana wanalofaa kutilia maanani ili mazao yawe ya kupendeza licha ya upepo mkali. Maeneo haya kwa mara nyingi huwa na upepo mkali ambao hupeperusha unyevu baada ya mkulima kunyunyuzia mimea yake maji.

Boji ya nyasi iliyokauka

Boji hutokana na matawi yaliyokauka ambayo huwekwa kwenye mizizi ya mimea ili kuzuia upepo mkali kutokausha unyevu kwani maeneo kame huwa na uhaba wa maji.Ili uwekezaji wa mkulima kwenye maeneo kame uwe wakufana, ni sharti kwanza akague hali ya upepo ,misimu ya mvua na mahali ambapo anaeza pata maji ya kunyunyuzia mimea yake.ukaguzi wa vifaa vya boji ni lazima utiliwe maanani na aina ya mimea mkulima angependa kukuza kwenye shamba lake.

Visima kwa mara nyingi hutumika kama njia mbadala ya kupata maji katika maeneo haya na ili kuzuia uharibifu wa maji boji husaidia kuzuia miale ya jua kali kwenye mizizi ya mimea na kuzuia uvukuzi wa unyevu .

mkulima anafunzwa kutumia boji

Boji mara nyingi hutumuika kama njia bora ya kuzuia ukuzi wa magugu katika shamba na kupunguza kushindania madini baina ya mimea na magugu.Njia nyingine za kuzuia magugu huharibu madini yalioko kwenye mchanga na kufanya ardhi kutokua na uzalishajui bora .Ili boji iwe na manufaa ni lazima iwekwe ikizingira mmea na unyunyuziaji ufanywe asubuhi na mapema na jioni wakati miale ya jua sio kali.

Boji ya matawi

Isitoshe kwa maeneo ambayo huwa na mvua nyingi, boji ya mawe hutumika ili joto ambalo mawe itapata iweze kutumika kuupa mmea joto wakati wa baridi kali.

Patricia M Kombo

patriciah@africafarmers.org

When I grow up, I would like to be a farm manager, a farmer or an agronomist, will be a common phrase among students just like when I grow I would like to be a lawyer or doctor. I have a vision, anytime i look at east where the sun rises, glare at the sunset ,a brighter Africa smiles at me as sun bids me goodbye. I see a healthy nation, a well fed continent where agricultural development will be more than other developments.

small scale market

Just like changing trends in media, where consumers have turned to be content producers, farmers have gamed up, through use of mobile phones, farmers now address their issues, carry out market research and sell their products. This is making agriculture a reliable source of income to small scale farmers. Experience is the best teacher, farmers learn from other farmers mistakes.Through use of social platforms like Facebook pages like Africa farmers club farmers now share knowledge and interact direct with agronomists in the groups who are not money oriented but passionate on agriculture.

Basil in green house

Despite wavering weather and climate change, Africa will live to feed its people through agriculture. Training’s and workshops have opened up which is a clear indication of a brighter agricultural sector. Drought resistance crops like katumani maize, cassava have been made available in arid areas, making the so thought unproductive areas more productive thus proper utilization of natural resources. Agriculture will attract amenities, open remote areas to development, building of firms and job employment. The future of agriculture will be brighter just as its evident with the food security agenda and the implementation of agricultural sector and research institutes.

farmer support team

Diversifying of agricultural activities, introduction of agriculture subject not only in secondary level but also in the university level is a show that we are heading to the right direction. The competency based curriculum should use this chance to introduce and re brand agriculture to student for long time agriculture has been perceived to be dirty job and for unlearned. An empty stomach leads to an empty mind and unproductive being. The country’s economy will be boosted by agriculture for there will be no more imports of agricultural products but they will be locally processed and produced in Kenya, thus increasing our GDP which relates to improved living standards.

By Patricia M Kombo

Patricia@africafarmers.org