Agricultural exhibitions help farmers learn, boost crop yield
Farmers in Embu who have organised several farm fairs where they learn from each other and invite experts to give them lessons say that the idea should be supported widely in the country to enable gaining and transfer of skills to increase food yields and meet the agenda for making Kenya food secure.
The same has been repeated by many small scale commercial farmers, who have said they learned about what they grow or rear from farm fairs, which include exhibitions and ASK shows among others.
Thomas Nyaga, the chairman of the Manyatta Stakeholders Forum (MASHF), which organizes annual farm fairs for residents in Embu says he has witnessed change into improved farming methods and higher food production in the constituency since the fairs started ten years ago.
He was speaking during a MASHF farm fair held at Kairuri grounds in Manyatta area of Embu County. “This is why Manyatta constituency tops in food production in the entire County. We grow vegetables, fruits and cash crops such as coffee, tea, and macadamia nuts. Many farmers in the area have also learned skills in value addition and have ventured into it,” he said.
“Through the annual exhibitions we organize, farmers, especially from this area, have learned skills that have helped them increase food production. As members of the MASHF, we contribute money to facilitate the smooth running of the show,” he said calling upon the government to be sponsoring such initiatives in order to reach out to many farmers.
He said MASHF also acts as a lobby group where they are able to influence decisions made by the county government and the local leaders.
Advising farmers to form or enroll to lobby groups, Nyaga advised that children should also be involved in agriculture as a way of building interest in them while young. This, he said, will ensure there will be enough food for all in the future. Today, the average age of Kenya’s farmers is 60 years, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
“Even if they will not end up being farmers, children who attend exhibitions will have an interest in farming and would understand the challenges faced by farmers and help them accordingly. If they end up being elected leaders, for instance, they will help make laws which favor the farmers,” he said.
Exhibitors said they benefit a lot through the shows since they get potential customers for their produce besides passing helpful knowledge to show-goers.
Nelson Njeru, a bee farmer and honey-soaps manufacturer said he is in support of the government’s Big 4 agenda that seeks to produce enough food and creation of employment opportunities through manufacturing.
“I have been getting customers and creating networks through these exhibitions. I call upon locals to be attending such exhibitions not only for our own benefits but also for them, as they learn more on farming and manufacturing,” Njeru said.
The show attracted over 65 exhibitors. It was attended by over 3, 000 people from the entire county and beyond.
Jackline Mukami, a show goer, said she learned about the best soils and management of watermelons that she had wished to grow all along. She revealed that from the exhibition, she met a field extension officer who will be helping her through her farming ventures.
She said the skills learned would help her increase yields in her farm translating to handsome earnings. She also learned that beekeeping can work as an alternative venture to supplement her earnings.
“Putting what we have learned today in practice will help me make good money in the agriculture sector,” she said.
Additionally, farmers urged county leaders to unite and make agricultural platforms which will ensure they (farmers) are regularly trained on matters agriculture. They said, being an agricultural county, Embu should be having several farmer exhibitions per year.