Partners in agricultural development continue to work on strategies and methods of enhancing small-scale farmers’ access to farming information and emerging issues. Dr. David Amudavi attended on Thursday 12 September 2019 one such effort of a community-based farmer information Hub project supported by the Australian Government and Duff Engineering company in Nairobi. The facility hosted at the Subukia ICT Centre and Sub-County Ministry of Agriculture, aims to increase the impact of agriculture and improve the lives of small-scale farmers, with an onsite, interactive and user-friendly touch screen information booth. This will give farmers access to up-to-date farming information and solutions relevant to their region, their crops and their farming issues. In particular the hub will enhance correct recognition of pests and diseases and relating these to emerging information on pests and diseases and recommending the most suitable pesticide solution and linking farmers to nearby input providers.
The project team has been engaging with key stakeholders in the project area of Subukia, including the Nakuru County government, farmer group leaders and farmers, in order to gather critical local knowledge to inform the design, content and location of the iGrowers infoHub. Having studied for a Masters in Agribusiness at the University of Queensland in Australia from 2013 – 2014, Ms. Rose Muchichu was inspired by the thinking about the issue of addressing farmers’ hunger for relevant and timely information to resolve problems such as pests and diseases, and their frustrations in accessing information. This was bolstered by her experience of working for a soil testing company with the role of promoting soil testing laboratories and scanner.
This is an excellent example of an emerging partnership involving several actors to address some of the challenges facing small-scale farmers ranging from globalisation, to urbanisation to income growth to weather changes and increase in use of technology. As noted by Rose, the required constant training and knowledge transfer to keep up with the changes is expensive for both government and private sector. Further, the overstretched farmer extension ratio making it impossible to effectively reach farmer and the existence of digital online content but access being inhibited by lack of awareness, connectivity and infrastructure issues require. The circumstances are exacerbated new pests and diseases affecting farmers and for which ordinarily it takes too long before farmers can easily identify them leaves them exposed to various risks. The farmers are also unable to keep up with the new products and services being availed in the market every day. The iGrowers InfoHub looks forward to address some of these challenges by providing farmers with free crop management information, linkages to service and product providers, and direct access to buyers. It also offers a platform for reporting crop production issues and requesting further information and training. The iHub was supported with funding from the Australian High Commission while Duff Engineering, where Rose is the marketing lead, has become a corporate sponsor to fund the software development and build the kiosk, at the same time extending their brand recognition into the agricultural industry.
The Hub was officially opened by the Mr. Aidan Regan, First Secretary and Deputy Representative to UNEP and UN-Habit from the Australian High Commission. He noted that Australia recognizes the unique place of investing in capacity building to address challenges including farmers’ low technical literacy, poor internet connectivity and limited public extension services. The Info Hub will empower farmer to access information up to date information on crops and farm management and access market. This will help them improve food security, increase income and address problems of hunger and nutrition, poverty, education, gender inequality. This will also help address problems of climate change and ensure sustainable production and consumption. He promised Australian’s Government’s willingness to continue to share resources and expertise in Africa and to strengthen collaboration among various partners to ensure that agriculture becomes cleaner and improve its efficiency and improve resilience of communities. Mr. Regan looked forward to hearing more about BvAT’s work. Dr. Amudavi will be arranging a visit to the Australian High Commission to explore areas of collaboration in sustainable agriculture.
Rose acknowledged and thanked the important sources of agriculture information for the content on the iGrowers InfoHub. In particular she expressed gratitude to Biovision Africa Trust for having given them access to the Infonet online content. She noted that the bulk of the information on the Hub is drawn from our Infonet user-friendly and well researched web net. She acknowledged the presence of Dr. David Amudavi in gracing the occasion and invited invite him to make some remarks. She also appreciated other important sources such as Access Agriculture who allowed them to use their videos on the Hub.
Dr. Amudavi was very pleased to see by a show of hands how many farmers in the group were receiving and using The Organic Farmer (TOF) Magazine. He promised BvAT’s collaboration with iGrowers InfoHub to support farmers to develop capacity to access and use information and produce sustainably for their consumption and sale to the markets. He also invited the farmers, Ministry of Agriculture extension staff and others to make use of the other BvAT supported resource centres close neighbouring Subukia Sub-County – Gilgil in the same Nakuru Country and Murungaru in neighbouring Nyandarua County. The County Chief Officer for Agriculture, Mr. Joel Maina Kibett, appreciated BvAT’s Infonet valuable resource. He advised BvAT to update the resource with more current information to make farmers tap into emerging markets. Such include avocado whose market is growing beyond boundaries of Kenya.
Article By The Executive Director, Biovision Africa Trust Dr. David Amudavi