The National Irrigation Development Authority (NIDA) has commissioned two model farms in Mutha and Vote in Kitui South to jump start farmer extension services to scale up food security.
The National Irrigation Board (NIB) injected Sh.95 million in the two projects under the Big Four Agenda to ensure that farmers in the area access modern farming techniques that can help improve their farming methods to alleviate hunger and poverty.
Speaking on Wednesday at Vote during a tour of the County Development Implementation and Coordination Committee (CDICC), the NIB Project Manager, Eng. Raphael Mutiso said the model farms each housing more than five greenhouses have provided a new lease of life to the locals who have access to fresh farm produce all year round.
“Farmers can do more to optimize the use of water in their lands, the government is helping them by investing in farmer outreach, education and assistance programmes for on-farm water-use best management practices, all of which will yield better returns,’ he said.
Eng. Mutiso said the move is a paradigm shift in the county’s farming methods from relying too heavily on rain-fed agriculture and into irrigation allowing farmers to be in-charge of small-scale irrigation schemes under the national government.
Benson Nyamai, the Chairperson of Vote Model Farm is optimistic that the five green houses will spur economic growth in the area and cushion locals from poverty and hunger.
“The arid Vote region is now thriving because of the availability of water for irrigation. This model farm has drip irrigation capable of watering five acres of land. We have 15 committee members overseeing the project,” said Nyamai.
He said that the community has learnt the best farming practices through this model farming. “We sell the farm produce such as Sukuma wiki, tomatoes and other horticulture produce at affordable prices,” he said.
“Our nutrition has been improved due to the variety of green vegetables that are available in this model farm. We are also organized as a community than we were before the introduction of this project,” said Nyamai.
He said that this model farm is a game changer in the area since many farmers have been trained on modern farming practices that they are implementing in the farms to increase food production and alleviate perennial dependence on relief aid.
Nyamai said that several farmers have shown interest in abandoning rain fed agriculture to irrigated agriculture to ensure they have ready farm produce all year round for both domestic use and sell the surplus.
“We have developed a business plan to enable us expand the project to accommodate more farmers and earn dividends from the sale of farm produce at the end of the year,” said the Chair of the Model Farm.
The County Commissioner (CC), John Ondego commended the farmers, adding that the government was committed to ending food insecurity in the semi-arid county through the provision of model farms to equip farmers with modern farming skills.
“This project is helping improve the livelihoods of the locals. You now have money in your pockets to help you take children to school, put food on the table and save for future use,” said Ondego.
He urged the project members to engage in business agriculture with a view to ensure that the project will be sustainable and benefit the community for years to come.
By Yobesh Onwong’a