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Farm clinic an innovative way of bridging information gap

Friday February 28 2020
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Participants follow proceedings during a past Seeds of Gold farm clinic. The clinics remain a pivotal initiative in bridging the information gap by bringing together farmers, government officials and experts to interact, learn from each other and exchange ideas. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By NELSON MAINA

Even before the dust settles on the recent weather pattern that was characterised by a prolonged dry spell followed by months of deluge that washed away crops and left farms devastated, farmers are now grappling with locust invasion, which is devouring their harvest.

It gets complicated as neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda, where the country gets the bulk of its food imports, are also battling the pests.

The new threats add to the many existing ones, including traditional pests and diseases, lack of inputs and tired soils that continue to take a toll on food production.

The net impact of these challenges is more pronounced now than ever before. Prices of foodstuffs such as tomatoes are at an all-time high of three at Sh50, as a bulk of households spend the lion’s share of their incomes on food.

Yet demand for food continues to grow as the population rises, putting even more pressure on producers. Amid this, agricultural land is shrinking, which calls for innovative ways of optimising land by ensuring production of more with less.

But farmers continue farming from a point of no information, despite the mounting challenges. A shortage of extension officers, who traditionally disseminated information on good farming practices means that farmers are on their own.

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Today’s Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic in Eldoret remains a pivotal initiative in bridging the information gap by bringing together farmers, government officials and experts to interact, learn from each other and exchange ideas.

At the event, farmers will learn climate-smart farming techniques, among them water harvesting, irrigation and investment in high-value crops that are drought-tolerant and high-yielding.

BELOW GLOBAL AVERAGE

There will also be a display of superior pest and disease control products for both livestock and crops.

Studies have pointed out a strong correlation between information access and increased yields, with farmers who learn new farming practices and acting on the information boosting their fortunes.

And while Kenya is home to dozens of international research institutions and scientists who have made cutting-edge breakthroughs, the disconnect has been conspicuous in translating the wealth of information into action points for farmers, who need it the most.

Bridgenet Africa, one of the research think-tanks in the continent, argues that less than 10 per cent of smallholders are beneficiaries of this research, which continues to gather dust on the shelves.

With Kenya having some of the most depleted soils in Africa owing to years of nutrient overexploitation without replenishment, use of fertilisers that is way below the global average, poor water harvesting methods and farmers being stuck in age-old seed varieties that are taken from previous harvests, agricultural productivity has continued to be low, fanning the hunger cycle.

That is why gatherings such as the Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic remain pivotal in knowledge transfer and are the easiest way to reach the thousands of farmers spread across the country.
It is possible to lift our country to mid-level economic status, contribute to the global call of ending hunger in all its forms by 2030 and propel agriculture to be one of the biggest job creators in the country by adopting smart-farming technologies.

The power of information is at the heart of this transformation.

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