Training centre to hone skills for farmers in horticulture
Posted Tuesday, March 5 2013 at 02:00
- Located in Thika, research project will equip growers with the latest technology in agribusiness
Horticulture farmers in the country could double production and improve quality following the launch of a modern training centre to offer the latest skills in the sector.
While Kenya has a conducive environment for various fruits and flowers, output has remained stagnant over the years because smallholder farmers are not equipped with the necessary data and skills to increase yields.
This may, however, become a thing of the past after the Horticulture Practical Training Centre (PTC) launched the second phase of its training hub in Thika last week.
Developed as a public-private partnership between the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK), the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari), and the Horticultural Crops Development Authority (HCDA), PTC seeks to provide practical skills in production, value addition, and marketing to the entire horticulture segment.
Kari will provide research backup, FPEAK will handle practical skills and the business information necessary for efficient horticulture enterprises, while HCDA will handle registration.
The Sh83 million project is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAid) and the Kenya Horticulture Competitiveness Project.
Besides familiarising farmers with the latest technology in the sector, the centre will hone farmers’ irrigation skills.
Phase one of the project was financed by the Dutch Government at a tune of Sh112 million and was completed in 2011. The initial funding mainly involved refurbishing and furnishing of training rooms, purchase of equipment, and establishment of production units.
“Here, farmers will be exposed to practical ways of successfully growing all types of horticultural produce,” said the FPEAK chief executive, Dr Stephen Mbithi, who has overseen the establishment of the centre over the past three years.
He said the project was established to help farmers learn practical skills in a real environment.
“Our aim is to turn the centre into a central depository, one-stop-shop for horticulture information in Kenya cutting across the value chain, production, value addition, logistics, and marketing aspects,” said Dr Mbithi.
Speaking at the launch, HCDA managing director, Dr Alfred Serem, said, “For a long time, training in horticulture has been done by many agencies, both public and private, leading to duplication of efforts and wastage of resources. The PTC effort will harness the efforts of the public-private sector, reducing time and resources spent for the benefit of all.”
Fresh graduates from universities and other workers in the sector will be trained on the practical skills necessary to work in modern horticulture farms.
The centre was opened by the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Romano Kiome, who said the development aligns horticulture with the Agriculture Sector Development Strategy and Vision 2030 since farmers will be trained on agribusiness, value-addition, and marketing — the key linkages in increasing production and earnings at farm level.
Currently, it takes two years for a fresh graduate to learn all the skills required to manage modern horticultural enterprises such as greenhouse farming, irrigation technologies, and pest and disease management.
Meanwhile, the centre has benefited from a new grant of Sh182 million from the Netherlands government to finance capacity building, curriculum development and research in higher education. TradeMark East Africa has donated Sh60 million for the same.