A great display of new farming practices

Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi (second left) engages a melon farmer at the Eldoret Show

One of the highlights of last week’s Eldoret ASK Show for farmer Simon Korir was learning how to produce his own livestock feeds using black soldier flies, an insect he had not heard about. Korir listened keenly as an exhibitor from Eldoret Technical Training Institute explained the process of housing, feeding and harvesting the black soldier flies larvae before drying to make livestock feeds.

“These flies are a good and cheaper source of proteins. Once you have them, you can mix with sources of carbohydrates and vitamins and end up with a composite meal,” said the exhibitor.

Farmers who attended the event also learnt the various urban farming techniques that include growing crops in worn out clothes and handbags, which ordinarily people dispose of.

New sheep, cattle and chicken breeds recently introduced in the country were also on display as well as fodder crops.

“Katambora grass gives higher yields and matures faster, therefore, it is climate-smart and can be used to make hay or silage before feeding to animals,” Elius Kipsang, an agronomist from Kenya Seed Company, explained to farmers.

Such is the knowledge that the farmers who attended the show went home with as they seek to transform their farming activities amid the rising effects of climate change.

Uasin Gishu Governor Jonathan Bii (right), samples an innovation at the University of Eldoret stand during the ongoing Eldoret ASK show.

The theme of the four-day show was “Promoting climate-smart agriculture and trade initiatives for sustainable economic growth”. With the use of the above innovative farming technologies, farmers can continue to produce food even as the effects of climate change hurt agriculture. These effects include erratic rains, frequent dry spells, increased pests and higher temperatures.

Addressing farmers at the event, President William Ruto asked them to embrace climate-smart farming practices so that they can continue to produce food despite the unfolding effects of climate change.

He noted that climate change is currently the single biggest threat to the country’s food security situation, therefore, farmers must adopt new practices.

The President said that the frequent heavy rains and dry spells are some of the effects of climate change, which have made it difficult for farmers to produce adequate food.

“We experienced El Nino rains last year. These rains destroyed crops on farms and also increased post-harvest losses,” President Ruto said in a speech read on his behalf by the Agriculture CS Mithika Linturi at the ASK Show.

To mitigate the effects of climate change, the President said the government is facilitating farmers to embrace new technologies and practices.

These include through provision of maize dryers and milk cooling equipment to stem post-harvest losses as well as the offering of resilient planting materials.

He further noted that the government has over the past months provided to farmers subsidised fertiliser to boost productivity, and, therefore, this season would not be different as the producers would receive the fertiliser on time.

Some 5.95 million bags of fertiliser were issued in 2023 to 995,000 farmers across the country.

“Agriculture has a high multiplier effect, that is why the government is investing in the sector to boost economic growth and create jobs,” he said.

During the 2023 season, the President said the country harvested over 60 million bags of maize, with the area under the crop increasing to 2.88 million hectares.

Provision of subsidised fertiliser, coupled with good rains, he noted, have made the country’s food security situation stable, with prices of various produce going down.

“A 2kg packet of maize flour is currently going at Sh130, a decline from Sh240 at the same time last year. These prices would further decline in the coming months,” he said. Mr Linturi asked dairy farmers to prepare for a new milk pricing regime, where they will be paid for quality and not quantity.

He further said the government would push for farmers to be paid in kilos to stop their exploitation.

Dr Jonathan Bii, Uasin Gishu Governor, said with the changing climatic conditions, farmers have no choice but to adopt new technologies and practices.

“We must embrace climate-smart farming techniques and innovations to continue to produce food despite climate change effects,” said Dr Bii noted that the county is among those worst hit by climate change, making it harder for farmers to know when to plant or harvest.

He said the county government has established climate-smart centre to promote sustainable farming practices.

“Our focus is on high-value crops like avocados and coffee. We have provided farmers with 29,000 avocado and over 100,000 coffee seedlings that are resilient,” he said, adding that the move is to prevent the reliance on maize.

Annabel Kirinya, the Agriculture Society of Kenya (ASK) chairperson, said the show that served as a curtain-raiser for ASK events had succeeded beyond their expectations.

“We are soon going to celebrate 100 years of ASK shows and this is a good start for us this year,” she said. Susan Seron, the chairperson of Eldoret ASK Show, said the event offered farmers a good platform to learn various new technologies and innovations, network and share experiences. Over 150 exhibitors participated in the show that was attended by hundreds of people.

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