Village advisers help youth embrace farming
When the national youth summit opened in Embu County in March 2019, one of the people who gave a presentation to the assembled VIPs was 30-year old Caroline Mugo, an active member of several youth groups in Karai Ward, Kiambu County.
“Thinking back to the days I used to combine working as a house-help with attending secondary school, I could never have imagined that one day I would be addressing a number of Governors and other important people,” says Caroline, who was selected to give a presentation on the Village-based Advisors (VBA) model being implemented in Kiambu County.
Caroline is one of the youth Village-based Advisors (VBAs) in Karai, Kikuyu Sub-County, a semi-arid part of Kiambu County, where the Kiambu County Government, with technical advice from AGRA, has been promoting more appropriate early-maturing maize varieties, together with advice on good agronomic practices.
Karai is the least productive of the four agro-ecological zones in Kiambu County. With unreliable rainfall here, farmers have traditionally put minimum investment in maize farming, most of them using late-maturing varieties suitable for high altitude areas.
“Apart from unsuitable seeds, many farmers here did not bother to use fertilizer or pesticide, and many still used to plant 3 or four seeds in a hole,” says Caroline.
With little returns from their small farms, it is usually difficult to find young people engaging in farming. According to Caroline, many of them have fallen into habits such as the use of drugs and petty crime.
Her own difficult past had led her to join several youth groups in Karai, including Greening the Youth and the Community Education Empowerment Centre. These are community organizations fighting gender-based violence and drug abuse among the youth in Kiambu.
It was her active community service that led to her recruitment as a VBA by a friend to her mother-in-law, who is also a VBA and who had been approached to find young people to be trained in extension work.
She has undergone various training sessions on various aspects of extension work. Beginning from the rainy season in March 2018, Caroline promoted several early-maturing maize varieties including the DKC80- 33 variety from Monsanto, and KH500-49A variety from Leldet Ltd.
She currently has a network of about 200 farmers in Karai, to whom she has distributed small sample packs (50 g) of improved early maturing seed varieties and has taught them how to space the seeds properly.