Somewhere in the background of (Ahiti), Nyahururu, stood the Aberdare Ranges.
A cool breeze wafted from the mountains to the Ahiti grounds where Seeds of Gold held its seventh farm clinic last Saturday.
The event started few minutes after 8am and in attendance were hundreds of farmers and farming enthusiasts who started to stream at the venue as early as 7am, braving the morning chill.
Some came from Meru, others Baringo, Narok, Machakos, Kiambu, Nyeri, Nairobi and of course from the larger Nyandarua County all eager to interact with experts.
Ready to educate the farmers were experts from Elgon Kenya, Egerton University, SimbaCorp, Agri SeedCo, Ahiti-Nyahururu and Kalro, among others.
And the questions from farmers to the specialists were varied. John Njuguna, a farmer from Geta in Kipipiri, strode into Elgon Kenya stand, accompanied by his wife.
In his right hand was a bag containing an assortment of twigs, leaves, plant roots and surprisingly, pests.
“I farm apples; I have more than 250 trees, but pests and diseases are pulling me back,” he told Samuel Theuri, an agronomist at Elgon Kenya.
After a brief examination, Njuguna was told his plants were under attack from varied pests and diseases that included white mealybugs, botrytis, root-knot nematodes, fungal mould and brown spot.
Besides use of pesticides, Njuguna was told to practice crop rotation, test his soil before planting and observe hygiene on the farm.
Lucy Kamau, a farmer from Ol Kalou asked why snails loved her vegetables and how she could curb them.
Theuri explained that snails love vegetables for nourishments but copper-based pesticides always eliminate them.
Peter Kinuthia, a farmer from Nakuru enquired why his pumpkins were rotting on the farm, and he was informed that they lacked calcium and water, besides being attacked by botrytis disease.
Prof Benard Towett from Egerton University had some counsel for Tabitha Ng’ethe, a farmer from Nyahururu whose bean crops were constantly ‘burnt’ by frost.
“Cultivate breeds that are adapted for the colder higher altitudes in which Nyahururu lies. At Egerton, we have developed a variety of beans which are suited for different ecological conditions,” he said.
He revealed an opportunity waiting for farmers. The institution is soon starting to contract farmers from across the country for mass cultivation of newly developed beans, sorghum and millet varieties.
Kennedy Kiplangat, a poultry farmer from Kabarnet in Baringo, asked why his chicks become droopy and die shortly afterwards.
Dr John Muchibi, a vet surgeon from Elgon Kenya informed him that he was not taking good care of them in the brooder.
“Keep them in a good-working brooder especially for the first two weeks after hatching and ensure you give them all the requisite vaccinations.”
Daniel Bogonko, a farmer from Narok, was at a loss that his cow had shown signs of heat months after he was sure it was in-calf.
“For more than four months, I thought my cow had conceived, then early this month, I was shocked to realise she was on heat again,” he said.
Dr Muchibi noted that the cow may have ‘aborted’ or lost the foetus before development, which is usually caused by heat stress, toxic agents, severe trauma, diseases such as bovine viral diarrhoea and an abrupt change in the cows feeding and nutrition habits, among others.
The factors, according to the specialist, could also cause early embryonic deaths, still births and mummified calves/foetuses. He advised farmers to properly care their animals when they are in-calf.
ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION IN GOATS
Ronald Kimitei, a livestock specialist from Egerton University, advised farmers that to ensure they reap from beekeeping, they must position their hives away from much human activities and ensure there is enough water and flowering plants in the vicinity.
He further advised pig farmers to that to make their pigs come on heat faster, they should keep both gilts/sows and boars closer, despite being in different housings.
“One method to detect when the sow is on heat is by rubbing her back and if she stands still and arches her back, then she is on heat.”
Artificial insemination in goats was a hot topic at the event, with farmers like Gakenia Musa from Oljoro Orok seeking to know where he can get the services.
Felix Opinya from Egerton University acknowledged that the services were uncommon, but they were spreading as one could access them from some established farms.
Students from Ahiti-Nyahururu stole the show when they performed skits on the best way to make silage and adverse effects of ticks and other pests on livestock.
Kelvin Kaloki, a bamboo specialist from Africa Plantation Capital educated farmers on how to grow the grass, the importance of growing quality seedlings as they would not be attacked by diseases and how to add value to end up with various items like furniture.
Peter Njeru from Simba Corp addressed farmers’ transport and farm machinery issues.
“Having you own vehicle saves you from exploitation by brokers and hired transporters. The vehicle also ensures your produce gets to the market on time, transporting farm inputs and hiring for use by others,” said Njeru, adding that their firm has a range of machines that include tractors, pickups, lorries and milk transportation containers
Pyrethrum Processing Board, SeedCo Ltd, Kenchic, National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) and the Ministry of Environment also offered their services to the farmers, with veteran weatherman, Nguatah Francis giving insights on how climate change and environmental degradation affects farmers. He asked farmers to plant trees on their farms to protect the environment.
Dairy farmers Teresia Kiama, Teresia Kimani and Janet Wanjohi from Nyahururu were thrilled with the lessons, leaving the event with plenty of ideas on livestock and crop management and how to eliminate brokers.
Dr Wangari Ng'ethe, Ahiti-Nyahururu director, said the event had offered the institution, especially her staff an opportunity to offer their knowledge and expertise to the larger community. She promised that she would not hesitate to host the event next time.
Watch out for the next farming clinic that is coming near you soon.
Nelson Maina, Elgon Kenya’s marketing and communication manager, said the clinics continue to show farmers’ growing quest for information.
“In the Nyahururu edition, we had farmers from all over including Kisumu, Vihiga and Meru. Engagement between farmers and the experts has become more intense with the former now saying they are farming from a point of information. It affirms our commitment to scale the clinics to every county in the country.”
Know it Fast
Farm clinics are a timely intervention
- The clinics offer farmers a golden opportunity to get quality knowledge and skills, get access to a wide range of products at farm level as compared to when they just get to an agrovet and purchase a product that they have very little knowledge and guidelines.
The events feature teachings, trainings, knowledge-sharing, exchanging of ideas for better agribusiness practices, and demonstrations on the best farming practices.
Farmers view some of the livestock bred at AHITI during the past Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic held in Nyahururu. PHOTO | BRIAN OKINDA | NATION MEDIA GROUP
- Farmers also learn technologies that they can adopt to boost their livelihood and food security for the country at large.
- Previous editions of the farm clinics have proven instrumental in shining the light on the problems our farmers are facing and connecting them with experts and other players in the industry.