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Agriculture

 

Farmers Think Commercial

There is urgent need to develop the human resource so that value can be added to the existing products. When human intellect is developed, a shift from basing production only on natural resources to products of the intellect will occur. Japan has no natural resource but the economy is based on the peoples’ intellect. Products of the brain are superior to natural products. These products cannot be produced without developing the human mind.

I recently visited farmer-groups in Makueni and Machakos districts of Eastern Kenya, a region largely dependent on meager rain-fed subsistence agriculture, to assess their understanding of applying commercial strategies in agriculture.

“Commercial farming is a type of agriculture that involves farming with a view of getting enough products for consumption and surplus for sale, in order to accrue profit,” says Maingi.

“What does it entail?” I ask.

“It entails putting in mind profit and loss. This can be determined by record keeping,” Mueni says.

“How is record keeping significant in determining profit and loss?” I pose. 

“It is important to know how much farm input has been involved in the agricultural process and what has come out of it. By weighing the two, one is able to determine whether he has gone at a loss or garnered profit,” Mbindyo says.

“If you encounter loss, you have to ascertain its cause. For example, are your crops suited for the area where you are cultivating them? Are you using the correct seeds and fertilizer? Could you be dependent on crop farming when animal rearing would do better? After answering those questions, you go ahead to do the right thing,” Mwoki chips in.

And indeed, the farming group dubbed Kalawani Mwanzo Mpya demonstrates how they responded to such questions. Having experienced water scarcity in their maize and vegetable demonstration plot, they hired another plot near a spring to maximize output. The kales, tomatoes and maize crops were doing well until frost set in. This, they appropriately combated with a product from a nearby agro-vet shop. But alas, when all was going well, an army of worms invaded their plot. The shopkeeper prescribed a pesticide- Bestox, which effectively combated the menace. When their hopes were high, the spring started drying up, thwarting their irrigation effort.

This is when they embarked on raising tree and fruit seedling for sale and baking bricks as they wait for the next rain season. Ngui, their chairperson says they couldn’t just sit back and do nothing, since business involves diversification. They are also raising money to sink a group borehole to settle the water problem permanently.

Their counterparts, Imani Farmers Group did not also sit back when the rains fled six months ago. They purchased maize flour in bulk and sold it in small quantities at a profit. They used the profit to set up an animal spray project. Local residents bring their animals for deworming and spraying against pests every Saturday.

“We charge Ksh 10 for each cow sprayed; Ksh 5 for goats and sheep and Ksh 25 for deworming services. Our project is registered by the Ministry of Agriculture,” says Benson Mang’eng’e, the group chairperson.

Kimeu, a group member loaned them his knapsack sprayer as they raise fund to buy one for the group. Using Steladone for spraying and Wormicid for deworming, the group makes not less than Ksh 70 per Saturday and over Ksh 400 on the last Saturday of the month.

They also contribute Ksh 20 each per week. By the end of the month, they have Ksh 2000 which they share equally among two members of the group to invest in business ventures. Priscilla Siloni opines that she used this money to buy a goat and poultry.

When prompted on which seed she will plant during the coming rain season, Stella proudly says: “I will plant certified hybrid variety. During the last rain season, I planted half a kilogram of Duma 41 maize seed and it yielded almost 2 sacks (140 kilograms), in spite of meager rainfall. One kilogram of the local farm-saved seed barely yielded 20 kilograms,” says Stella.

“We are working with relevant stakeholders to boost us in terms of farming skills, technology diffusion and acquisition of farm inputs, loans and market information. Our destiny lies in liaising with other service providers on a win win basis,” says Benson.



By Josephat Juma
Mr. Juma is an African Executive Writer


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