Model Farm: Setting up model farms and plots.

by James Kamuye Kataru

At the inception of county governance in the year 2013, most Kenyan regional units commissioned task forces made of professionals to seek ways of improving agricultural practices and turn them into economically viable activities that could provide households with sufficient food and income generation. The phrase “Agri-business” was widely used to inspire small holder farmers and jobless youths into dusting their aprons, putting on gloves, and shoving their hoes as they turned their farms into profitable entities. Households were encouraged to venture into production of fast maturing, high yielding, and ready market crops to feed the ever-increasing population in the rural and urban centers. In addition, families were encouraged to rear a dairy cow or two, dairy goats, chickens, and other birds to provide nutritional supplements for the family and manure to use on their farms.

According to the Kenya government and USAID report on Agriculture and food security, “Agriculture is the engine of economic growth in Kenya. About 75% of Kenyans earn all or part of their income from this sector.  Agriculture accounts for 33% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).  Despite continuous population growth, agricultural productivity has stagnated in recent years.”  This has necessitated the need to provide better farming practices that are not labor intensive and easy to interpret and implement, then share between farmers and other industry players. Such information is found in digital content and informative SAWBO animation videos.

A model plot or farm

Images of the first model farm in Bulechia Village, Mumias east constituency, Kakamega County, Kenya before, during and after hand-ploughing. Picture by Kataru Concepts.

Model plots and farms can be very powerful tools in demonstrating to our communities how digitally packaged information, such as animations can be translated into applicable farming practices with minimal environmentally friendly inputs that result in best possible maximum returns.  These plots and farms can be appropriate for farmer-to-farmer extension knowledge sharing and act as reference points for farmers’ groups, agricultural institutions, counties and national governments. Although the initial costs of setting up a model farm may eat into a farmer’s budget, the concept can be approached in a way to make it self-sustaining and less expensive to implement. Farmers shall be advised to plough back profits from farm produce sales and cover expenses of certain necessary features that enhance the functionality of their model farms.

Requirements of our model plot or farm

The Kataru Concepts idea of a “model farm or plot” is where selected farmers from our networks will be identified and encouraged to set aside portions of their farms as demonstration sites for practicing knowledge gained out of watching SAWBO animation videos. Selected farmers shall be encouraged to practice mixed farming and ensure a steady supply of animal feed from farm produce remnants, and animal waste to be used in the preparation of compost manure as captured in the Swahili version video; Survival Gardening: How to Create Compost (3D).  A standard model farm or plot shall have the following achievable specifications;

a.         The farm size should be a minimum of 1/4 acre and a maximum of 10 acres.

b.         It should be owned and managed by the farmer who is a member of our networks.

c.         Should have a secured fence to keep out intruders.

d.         Should be subdivided into well planned plots planted with different crops.

e.         The farm should have space for compost preparation demonstration and other practices.

f.          There should be paths and walkways to be used by farm visitors.

g.         A small field where a tent can be erected, and chairs put for a farmers training session.

h.         Ensure the farm can implement and enforce all local guidelines and recommendations for keeping everyone safe during the COVID- 19 pandemic including proper mask usage at all times, including when outdoors and adherence to proper social distancing guidelines.

i.          One or two dairy cows for milk and manure (optional).

j.          A dairy goat for milk and manure (optional).

k.         Chicken for meat, eggs and manure (optional).

After setting aside the farm or plot to be used for demonstration purposes, the farmer shall prepare it by ploughing using hoes, an ox plough, or tractor. This is necessary to break the soil, uproot weeds, and expose them to the sun to dry. You can as well bury them in the soil which helps improve soil aeration and fertility. After land preparation and demarcation, the farmer shall be at liberty to choose what crops to plant without interfering with the family and market needs. 

Other tools a model farmer shall need include a tape measure to measure plots sizes, trenches and walk ways to give the farm an impressive look. Depending on the slope, it’s necessary for a farmer to consider digging trenches to control flood water on large farms. This can also be done by walkways and paths between smaller plots that empty collected water into trenches where bananas and arrow roots can be grown. 

How will the community benefit from model farms and plots?

Just to make sure that the concept is well understood by our readers, these model plots and farms shall act as farmers’ information resource centers where visiting members of the community and farmers networks will be shown the following;

How to download, use and share SAWBO animation videos and put them into use.

A variety of crops planted in the plots and managed using information in SAWBO videos and advised to apply the same on their farms back home.

Other SAWBO farm practices such as jerrycan bean storage, preparation of compost manure, etc, and advised to share the same information with friends and family.

In addition, model farms can include an ambitious program to train farmers on other practices such as proper record keeping, sourcing for markets, and produce value addition.

In essence, these model farms shall act as an example of how SAWBO’s digital technology can be used to enhance farming, make it exciting, and turn into an full-time employer. We strongly believe that after seeing such model farms, members of the community will take keen interest in applying the techniques learned and use the information captured in the animations to turn their own farms into vibrant business centers. 

We chose to locate our first model farm in Bulechia village of Mumias east constituency, Kakamega County. This is where the Kataru Concepts team held its first farmers training on the use of SAWBO animation videos. After successfully implementing the first model farm, we’ll roll out the program to other counties where we’ve established farmer’s networks.   

In our next blog series, we shall take you through the actual preparation process of our first “model farm” and the exciting journey of putting digital content into practice.

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