The Government of Kenya in partnership with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has commenced training for women and youth groups within Nambale and Bunyala sub-counties in Busia on latest methods that guarantee higher returns in fruit and vegetable farming.
According to the Nambale sub-county Director of Agriculture Jenipher Lutomia, the groups are set to benefit from the training with the view to improving the quality of their products.
“The small-holder horticulture empowerment project will equip our farmers with skills to identify the right market before growing required products,” said Lutomia.
She said that farmers would be better informed of market needs and channel all efforts towards producing the right quality and quantity of products, thus eliminating too much wastage that occurs when proper market research is not carried out.
Mentioning the challenges that farmers go through, the director cited high cost of farm inputs and ignorance as major hindrances to the agri-business industry.
“In some instances, a farmer may afford to buy fertilizer, but fail to know the right proportion to apply to his crop. This is retrogressive,” Lutomia said.
The rising population in both urban and rural areas is a boost to kales (sukuma wiki) farmers. However, as the demand rises, land is shrinking fast. This compounds the food insecurity problem.
Appropriate technologies for growing vegetables like kales in limited spaces, therefore, should be adopted.
In 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Cooperative launched the model kitchen garden developed in collaboration with Scaling up Nutrition Civil Society Alliance (SUN CSA Kenya).
“Kitchen gardens are the easiest ways households can ensure an inexpensive supply of fresh vegetables, herbs, spices and other plants,” she added.
She asserted that with the training, farmers would be better informed, and would harness all resources available to earn more income from the sale of their commodities, while at the same time-consuming improved variety of fruits and vegetables for better health.
One such technology is bag culture, also referred to as sack gardening, multi-storey or vertical farming technique which improves food security and incomes.
Agreeing with Lutomia’s sentiments, Philis Buluma, a member of the group testified how she has been incurring heavy losses as a result planting vegetables without having researched about a possible market.
“On several instances, I have disposed of my vegetables or converted them into animal feed due to poor insight of market needs,” Buluma said.
The small-holder farmer expressed optimism that with the training, she would be better placed to discern the right season and market for her produce for regular returns.
“I am going to be very strategic on my small farm to ensure that I produce according to demand, while at the same time ensuring that there is sufficient and healthy food for my young family,” added Buluma.
Busia County has had several cases of malnutrition owing to poor farming methods. Majority of farmers concentrate on planting staple foods like maize and cassava while neglecting fruits and vegetables.
The Kenya government is partnering with JICA to change the narrative. Farmers are set to benefit from this initiative, and adopt diversification and best practices in farming for a better life.
By Absalom Namwalo and Joshua Opili