About 13 years ago, Noah Kadima was trying to get started as a farmer, keen to try out the various promising farm inputs available on the market.
Today, with trial and error and experience under his belt, Mr Kadima has become a respected farmer and ‘agri-preneur’ among his network, thanks to Facebook, and beyond.
In fact, Kadima has recently launched the Africa Farmers Club to offer fellow farmers guidance and advice on how to manage their crops and their farms. Through the club and his collaboration with agricultural company Syngenta, Mr Kadima is giving farming a new definition as a profitable business.
Kadima is part of Syngenta’s sustainable initiative called The Good Growth Plan (GGP), which provides guidance to farmers on good agriculture practices. The aim is to promote more efficient and more sustainable farming to increase land productivity and resilience.
“Three years into farming and the challenges were so real. I started off so excited. I really wanted to get into this farming business. But at the same time getting information on how to go about it was a challenge,” Mr Kadima recalls.
Like many farmers of his generation, he started off as a ‘Google farmer’. He would search for information on farming from the web. This is how he came across the Syngenta website and made a point to visit the company’s offices in Nairobi.
“I was interested in growing four crops: onions, watermelons, tomatoes and capsicum. An agronomist from Syngenta gave me information on the seeds, put me in touch with my local field expert, and also handed me a booklet that guided me on how to prepare my farm from sowing to harvest,” he shares.
The agronomist took Mr Kadima through the process of identifying the products that would work for his soil and his crops. “We also worked out a customised farming programme detailing what I was growing there, and how to protect my crops.”
It did not end there. “He also introduced me to The Good Growth Plan, which offers so much more than just crop management. He talked me through how to best take care of my farm and my workers so that they could work safely and more productively,” he explains.
Mr Kadima is now one of hundreds of GGP reference farmers, setting the example for others in his region and promoting a number of best practices on how to grow crops more efficiently.
What has changed on his farm?
Through the GGP, Mr Kadima started keeping records, and that is when he realised he was able to use the same quantity of inputs on a larger farming area, without compromising on his yields and profitability.
“Through the programme, I have cut down on my farming expenses and kept proper records, which has translated into financial accountability and tracking,” he says during a tour of his 14-acre farm in Kisaju, Kajiado County. “I was able to reduce on the cost of production, which translates to more profit thus more income.”
The GGP has further introduced Kadima to safe use of chemicals. In fact, one of its key pillars is to help people stay safe.
Syngenta invests heavily on training growers and value chain partners in using crop inputs safely and effectively. Small steps like wearing the appropriate protective gear, understanding product labels and disposing of packaging in the best possible way, have made a huge difference on the impact that Kadima’s farm has on the community.
He was also trained on how to scout around his farm and identify which areas are affected by pests and note down when they need to be sprayed and which chemicals to be used. He shares this knowledge with other farmers, he says.
Knowing when to spray your fields is just as important as knowing what products to use. The step-by-step advice Kadima received from Syngenta is what he now gives back to his community through the Africa Farmers Club.
Through the club, Mr Kadima aims to conduct farmer trainings. He has established a model farm in Kitengela, Kajiado County, where he showcases best practices and the latest agricultural technologies to increase yields.
“I know all the farmers in my network and it is so satisfying to hear how their lives have changed through our advice on how to make use of top quality agricultural technologies, how their yields are doubling, and in turn how their income and the wellbeing of their families and that of the communities they work and live in are improving,” he observes.
Using WhatsApp to spread agronomic knowledge
Lack of information on proper farming techniques and the difficulty to get agronomic advice in a timely manner often hinders farmers from benefitting fully from their fields.
“The ratio of agronomists to farmers in Kenya is 1:14000,” observes farmer Noah Kadima of Kisaju, Kajiado County. Kadima, a beneficiary of Syngenta’s Good Growth Plan (GGP) programme, is nonetheless lucky. The programme has enabled him and many other farmers to maximise crop productivity.
“Through the GGP, Syngenta is meeting a market need to support farmers with knowledge and step-by-step advice,” he says.
Syngenta, which offers innovative crop solutions, has launched a number of WhatsApp groups through which its agronomists connect with more growers to help bridge knowledge gaps.
Syngenta agronomists manage many of these platforms across the country.
Senior Syngenta Field Technician Duncan Mukuna, explains: “The WhatsApp groups we create are platforms for farmers and agronomists to come together and share experiences. We have been using these platforms to share advice. Farmers use them to share photos of the pests plaguing their fields, and we use the same to connect farmers to favourable markets for their produce. In a way, these forums have made us all a family, and we come in to help each other”.
Mr Mukuna has been following Kadima’s journey closely, but he is only one of the hundreds of field experts working to improve agricultural productivity in Kenya.
Joining the WhatsApp groups helped Kadima to kick-start the African Farmers Club. “It has helped me reach out to more people who are farming in my area. Most of them have moved from farming as a hobby and have understood that it is a business,” he says.
To those who ask him how he has managed to succeed in farming Mr. Kadima always refers them to the GGP program. “The step-by-step advice and the access to a community of fellow farmers to share challenges and successes have changed the life of farmers in the area by changing their attitude towards farming,” he says.
Small deeds for big success on the farm
Access to knowledge and high quality input are key requirements for successful and profitable farming. But there is more to this, according to experienced farmer Noah Kadima, who has derived vast knowledge through Syngenta’s The Good Growth Plan (GGP).
To maintain consistency in quality of produce, Mr Kadima practices crop rotation on drip irrigation, growing at any given time, his favourite capsicum, onions, spinach, kale and tomatoes.
He shares: “I start with soil tests to check the nutrient levels across the farm. That information helps me decide where to grow which crops and even to select the varieties I want to grow on any given season. I also factor in climate change, which is a reality farmers in Kenya will have to live with more and more”.
Kadima advises his peers to diversify their crops as much as possible regardless of the acreage of their farms. This promotes soil health and encourages resilience, he says.
He additionally advises fellow farmers to think beyond crop production for their farming enterprises to be profitable. Farmers must consider all aspects relating to the sale of their items, such as transportation costs.
“Farmers need to sell at good prices and need access to markets. What I loved about GGP project is that it did not just end at producing the crops. It also meant that if Syngenta got people who wanted to buy the produce, they would link us up,” he says.
This unlocked new doors for Kadima and other farmers in his network. “We now start planning together which crops to grow, and throughout the year, we have consistency, which gets buyers to trust us,” he says.
Modern farming technologies
Mr Kadima advises other farmers to also embrace modern farming technologies and get proper training on how to apply them effectively.
“When it comes to (modern) inputs, we have a choice. We can either continue doing things in the traditional way… or we can try them on our field… My appeal to farmers is, let us adopt the new technologies,” he says.
Kadima admits that there is certainly still a lot to be done to increase access to modern inputs and new farming technologies in Kenya, as well as the knowledge on how to use them.
The GGP and the Africa Farmers Club are a step into this direction. He also wishes that farm inputs dealers played a more active role, for instance, by enquiring from customers why they are purchasing a particular product and offering professional advice on how to best use it practically on the field.
Inspiring the next generation
At 40 years of age, Mr Kadima is making agriculture cool for the next generation, helping to reverse a trend that sees young people shying away from farming.
He starts in his own backyard. He is a father of three – two boys and a daughter – and he aims to inspire them about the importance of the land.
“The boys know that their daddy works in the farm, and anytime they see him wear a suit going for a meeting, they are like, ‘Daddy we don’t see you wear a suit’.”
He adds: “The twin boys have their own small kitchen garden where they farm. One of them is passionate about how plants grow. The other one wants to know how he can use technology to grow plants. The little girl is still too young to understand, but she certainly prefers apples to sweets, and knows that her dad works closer to the food.”
These could be three promising agricultural talents.
The story of Mr Kadima’s farming journey is an inspiring example of how farmers in Kenya can benefit from each other’s experience and knowledge sharing, and how input companies can support them in maximising yields and improving their livelihoods.
The Good Growth Plan has already reached millions of growers across the world with farming advice, safety and productivity training and with expert support in the field.
Mr Kadima and his fellow farmers at the African Farmers Club are demonstrating how, when used safely and effectively, modern agricultural inputs and technologies can revolutionise and professionalise agriculture and support the government’s vision for a food secure Kenya.
The Good Growth Plan
Every day, our planet wakes with nearly 200,000 more mouths to feed and more farmland lost to erosion. Many people who produce the world’s food are living in poverty, while biodiversity is disappearing fast.
We have a plan to meet these challenges: The Good Growth Plan.
Our mission with this plan is to improve the sustainability of agriculture and our business through six commitments.
We know we don’t have all the answers. That’s why we are working with growers, governments, NGOs and others, to make a difference.
One planet. Six commitments. This is The Good Growth Plan.