Two recent developments have shown improvements in Kenya’s agricultural sector due to the training of students who go on to make a difference at the production and value chain levels. The first one of the initiatives has been the Farmer Field School (FFS), a program that major universities initiated in 2017 to offer one-on-one training in farms.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), this and like-minded programs have allowed the country to rank better than its regional peers in agricultural improvements. For instance, the FFS program, which FAO co-sponsors with Swiss Development Cooperation, is expected to drive agriculture forward. It will also buoy the livestock sub-sector.
New Pan-African training Drive
On March 7, 2018, Kenya also introduced a new agribusiness coaching initiative courtesy of a US-based development agency. The AGCO Corp-sponsored program will initialize with a training of under-30 year old degree holders at Strathmore University. The program seeks to enhance the graduates’ careers who will in turn drive farming expertise in the country.
The initiative is under the stewardship of the government’s education docket and will have an outreach outside the country for it is aimed to the rest of Africa, South of the Sahara.
The pan-african initiative notes that the input of skill in the youth will help insure food sufficiency in coming years.
Speaking during the launch of the agricultural training program, Nuradin Osman, VP and MD for Africa at AGCO said that the main goal will be to inculcate skills that will be critical in the storage and processing of fresh produce.
The above goals are critical because the country loses 40% of all harvests each year due to improper storage. Maize, for instance, Kenya’s staple grain suffers losses of 30% due to preventable practices like damp storage that sometimes leads to aflatoxin accumulation. This accounts to about $332 million of lost income for the country.
The outcomes of such training drives have already began to show results all over the country. For instance, former graduates have initiated temporary storage rooms in which they charge KSH70 ($0.7) for every crate of fresh produce they keep on behalf of farmers. This could reduce the loss of delayed export goods with a short perishability duration.
The Rockefeller Foundation’s YieldWise project, on the other hand, will offer solid value chain support to family growers for the next seven years through startups. One of these is to offer silos made of metal as well as industry-level storage bags to small-scale farmers in Kenya. The project also trains workers to use solar drying equipment to enhance the shelf life of food and export produce in ill-equipped rural areas.
Thus, as the country looks forward to regaining its prestige as a regional food basket, agricultural training initiatives as FFS and Pan-african programs will pave the way for the realization of the dream. This may control the seasonal food insecurity that often hits the nation leading to the import of even staples like maize.