Despite the disruption of economic activities by the coronavirus pandemic, the annual National Farmers Awards (NFA) has harvested a basket of fortunes.
This is arguably a subtle sign that agriculture and farmers hold the golden key to recovery as well as rethinking post-Covid-19 business alignments.
Why do we sound so optimistic in a gloomy environment? Looking back at the journey of the awards since 2012, it wasn’t until 2020 that winners of the 8th edition received accolades from a cross-section of stakeholders, in a year with little to smile about as the contagion drags on.
Nairobi, the biggest market and distribution centre for agricultural produce and the main gateway to the export markets, remains under restricted movement.
Nevertheless, agriculture sector workers were designated as essential service providers and exempted from the restrictions.
People must eat and that basic need is what makes farming the most important economic undertaking.
In a new normal, the NFA celebrated the winners through media, unlike in the past when the champions gathered for a gala dinner with all the glamour and ambience of an awards night.
The farmers’ awards scheme was mooted to, among other things, help in changing the generational perception that farming is for the wretched of the earth.
Behind the hundreds of trophies and certificates awarded to outstanding farmers since the first winners were announced are stories of hard work, innovation and satisfaction derived from touching the soil.
Elgon Kenya Limited and the Ministry of Agriculture, the founding sponsors of the scheme, are greatly indebted to the entry of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (Kepsa), Nation Media Group, the SDG Platform, the Agriculture Sector Network and the Agriculture Media Society of Kenya to bolster the farmers’ awards.
ASNET, a multi-agency formation, brings together Kepsa, the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as other industry institutions to support agriculture in a process in which there is a coordinated monitoring of growth, identification of gaps and recommendation of workable solutions.
Kepsa CEO Carol Kariuki, in recognising the awards, said they are a pointer to untapped potential in agriculture.
The award’s patron, Mr Bimal Kantaria, who is also the managing director of Elgon Kenya Limited, this year received recognition for his support to agriculture.
He was awarded a honorary doctorate degree by the United States Graduate College and on this year’s Madaraka Day, President Uhuru Kenyatta honoured him with an Uzalendo Award for his relentless efforts of mobilising support for export of horticulture produce during the Covid-19 shutdown.
In what arguably attests to hard work and patience pays, the awards ceremony this year taken a whole new face.
The government has recognised the scheme as a key player in the Agenda 4 as well as the Agriculture Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy.
In his message to the 8th edition winners, Agriculture CS Peter Munya said awarding farmers matters to the government as this helps in achievement of desired transformation in the sector as new ambassadors of farming are born.
The awards go a long way in rewarding and recognising the efforts of producers while at the same time creating a common platform to celebrate the achievements of all the efforts invested in a functioning agriculture industry.
Nation Media Group CEO Stephen Gitagama gave it a perfect parting shot, “The interest in the awards suggests an expansion of Kenya’s agriculture.”
The writer is the communications manager at Elgon Kenya