A walk inside the Nakuru Agriculture Society of Kenya (ASK) showground leaves one with mixed feelings.
At a time like now, this place would be characterised by healthy, well-tended crops, fattened bulls, dairy cows showcasing their wet udders, the best of poultry, agricultural inputs and state-of-the-art machinery.
On the left side of the entrance are many parked cars. As we discover, some of their owners are jogging within the 100-acre grounds, while others are taking meals and drinks at an adjacent hotel.
On the right are livestock sheds, which would now be filled with cows and bulls, while next is a livestock office, in which judges would probably be meeting to crown the best animals.
We meet Dr Perminus Migwi, the acting chairman of Nakuru ASK Show. He is seated quietly in his office, alone, seemingly following the Covid-19 updates through a television set.
“Ordinarily, at this time, my office would be busy, with a lot of traffic flow from exhibitors and government officials, among other guests,” says Dr Migwi.
But it is a different story today as the show was called off following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Apparently, some exhibitors had already prepared their portions of land, ready to showcase modern farming methods.
By April this year, about 40 exhibitors had already shown interest, and more were anticipated to come, until the office communicated that there would be no show.
PREPARING FOR THE SHOW
As Dr Migwi takes us around the showground, we meet Joseph Wenje watering his collard green crop.
Beside this vegetable garden is a well-fruited maize crop, which leaves one yearning for some boiled or roasted maize.
“This is the DKC 90-89 variety; it can yield up to 45 90-kilogramme bags of maize per acre if well managed, and thrives in areas with medium altitude,” explains Wenje.
A promoter with Bayer’s East Africa, he shows us another variety of maize, saying he had planted one line with two seeds per hole, while other lines had a single seed.
“I wanted to demonstrate to farmers that this variety can yield just as high when planted in doubles as in singles; all it needs is extra feeding for the double plants,” he explains.
He is among the exhibitors who had started preparing for the show, hoping to showcase their products and entice clients.
Further afield is a small demo garden of climbing beans. Though the crop looks healthy, it has not been tended for.
What would have been the Kenya Seeds Company space is taken up by a portion of an already fruiting wheat crop, a healthy cabbage crop, some traditional vegetables and a seemingly bacteria-infected tomato crop.
Along this ground, children play freely. They have all the space and no interference from visitors.
As we learn, these are some of the tenants who live on the showground and move away every time the show is on. This year, though, they will not be moving.
The fact that there will be no show, Dr Migwi explains, means that Nakuru ASK will lose an annual income of between Sh20 million and Sh25 million.
“Worse still, most of our tenants, who include churches, cannot raise their monthly rent fee, which accounts for about 25 per cent of our total income,” says Dr Migwi.
Initially, there was hope that probably some ASK shows would not be affected by Covid-19. However, as Dr Migwi explains, a recent cancellation of the Nairobi International Trade Fair was a clear indication that things would not be good this year.
“We received official communication that Nairobi International Trade Fair had been cancelled for this year; meaning this will apply to all other shows,” says Dr Migwi.
As an expert though, he believes that the future of ASK shows is digital rather than the normal annual tours.
Dr Migwi says there are plans to produce educational materials, which can be posted on digital platforms such as YouTube, targeting young farmers.
Besides, he recommends construction of multi-purpose structures, which can generate revenue even in days when there is no show.
Within the Nakuru ASK grounds, for example, there is one such structure which was recently rented for mass production of face masks.
For now, only time will tell when the ASK shows will resume, but what is guaranteed is that there will be a ‘new normal’ in this sector.