Emerging pests and diseases, unpredictable weather patterns and poor farming practices are some of the factors putting the brakes on food production.
These, add to a burgeoning population amid decline in agricultural land, are recipe for perennial food shortages.
And as the smallholder farmers, who form the bulk of food producers in the country, are grappling with the challenges, access to timely information on how to survive remains a challenge. The government extension officers who farmers traditionally relied on for support have now become rare.
It is against this backdrop that regional agro-input firm Elgon Kenya partnered with Nation Media Group to come up with plant clinics, giving farmers renewed hope of farming from a point of information.
The seventh edition took place last Saturday at the Animal Health and Industry Training Institute in Nyahururu, Nyandarua County. The events, also held in collaboration with Egerton University and county governments, among others, are a testament to the success the intervention is having in transforming how food is produced.
Framed along the human health concept, the clinics involve plant doctors, usually researchers and agronomists, who offer agronomic support while diagnosing ‘sick plants’.
Farmers carry their sick plants or come armed with questions on any agricultural topic including on animals, explain them to the doctors who then prescribe the best remedy.
This has been a departure from the usual farmers’ days where agro-dealers assemble to sell products without first understanding the root causes of their problems.
Previous clinics have drawn farmers from all corners of Kenya with the appetite for information growing with each edition, opening up a world of opportunities and new knowledge for those who attend.
The number of participants has equally grown with every edition, rubberstamping the importance of constant interaction between farmers and experts.
This edition also tackled animal health matters as farmers express more interest in the subject. A team of experts will always be available to answer any concerns on other farming subjects.
The clinics have been a classic example of the power of partnership in boosting the prospects of key sectors of the economy. With farm clinics, we are walking the talk to give farmers information that will allow them produce food and even access export markets.
Moving farmers from the traditional way of farming into embracing new and modern ways of food production, therefore, is pivotal if the country is to attain mid-level economic status in the next 13 years.
This would involve being able to produce enough to feed the population while having surplus to export, agricultural experts argue.
Interventions such as plant clinics comes in handy in assisting farmers address bottlenecks to food production.