by James Kamuye Kataru

On Monday, October 26 2020 I happened to be a guest speaker in a KEYOP – Kenya Youth Employment Opportunities Project training that was held at St. Antony Sirisia Boys High School of Bumula constituency, Bungoma County. 300 youths from various levels of academic qualifications were selected by the government and taken through a number of training skills to help sharpen their entrepreneurial acumen, hence, shaping them into serious farmers, traders, woodworkers, salonists, barbers, plumbers, and engineers of the future. The well-organized session followed the government of Kenya, Ministry of Health and WORLD Health Organization rules and regulations on the fight against Covid-19 and provided an insight into how government efforts were being supplemented by development partners to adequately prepare our youths for the economic challenges that lay ahead in their otherwise “young” areas of employment and income generation.  

In my speech, I decided to capture how the trainee’s area of investment would be enhanced by using locally available digital tools to better their practices and service delivery. The enthused youths were excited on being reminded that their phones could effectively work to cut their business losses, increase market for their products, ease transactions, and grow their investment.  In particular, I focused on how searching, downloading and sharing educative SAWBO Animation videos are handy in situations where professional services were unavailable, yet effective solutions were needed.

I therefore encouraged those investing in farming and agricultural produce, to extensively use SAWBO animation videos to get more knowledge on the following practices: 

Breaking a compacted surface allows water to sink in and helps root reach moisture. Photo courtesy of SAWBO.

Land preparation: It is important to prepare farming land properly before planting your seed or seedlings to guarantee plant germination. A well tilled land conserves moisture and soil fertility. From the video Deep Tillage and Smarter Manure Use: Dig Deep, Save Money and Harvest More, the youth were advised to use and share the knowledge on how to properly prepare their farms, the importance of ploughing early before the rains start, why plough deep, how to get the most out of manure or fertilizers used and why practice response-fertilization.  

Compost Preparation: To cut farm input costs, the youth were advised to watch and use knowledge in the Swahili version of the video Survival Gardening: How to Create Compost (3D). Every farmer wishes to use organic manure to improve their soil fertility, crop health and yield. This makes it important to know how to prepare compost from vegetation like maize stalks, animal manure and kitchen scraps collected on the farm. Compost adds nutrients and organic matter to soil improving soil quality.

Image showing the dimensions of a compost manure heap. Photo courtesy of SAWBO

Forming raised beds: There are certain crops that need to be planted on raised beds to increase their yield and hence income from sales. Such crops include vegetables, onions, beans, sweet potatoes, and other top-shilling fetching tubers. In this case farmers have to prepare raised beds on their farms before planting seed or transplanting seedlings. In the video Survival Gardening: Raised Planting Beds (Swahili version), raised beds are a great way to keep crops safe and increase yields. They increase soil quality and reduce soil compaction protecting plants during times of excess rainfall. Raised beds have an aesthetic value too if the beds are done straight and the plants arranged in neat rows. These beds also maximize land use, especially on small portions allocated to youthful farmers by their parents. For further information on planting on raised beds check out my blog, planting on raised beds.

Planting seeds and seedlings: After tilling land, making it ready for planting by either deep tillage or forming raised planting beds and making your compost manure ready, the next step it to plant your seed directly or transplant seedlings. It is common knowledge around East Africa that most small scale agriprenuers prefer fast maturing, high yielding, ready market grains like maize and beans, and veggies such as kales (Sukuma wiki), onions, carrots, cucumber, watermelon, tomatoes, pepper, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, and a variety of spices.

Caring for the crop: There are several steps to be followed to nurture a crops’ vibrancy and guarantee a good harvest.  While planting your seed and seedlings observe the guidelines provided by seed manufacturing companies and agricultural extension officers. Manure and fertilizer application should be in the right quantities and at the right time to ensure a healthy crop. Apart from weeding to pull out weeds, the use of pesticides should shift from “curative”- where the farmer sprays pesticides after a crop has been attacked to “preventive”- where farmers apply the right pesticides to prevent pests from attacking crops.

Besides using commercial insecticides, farmers are advised to subsidize with locally available environmentally friendly pesticides as captured in my blog, One more environmentally friendly use for the Neem tree and explained in the SAWBO video, Natural Insecticide from Neem Seeds. At this point, if a farmer misses to control a pest attack, the crop health is at risk and final harvest not guaranteed.  Pests should not be allowed on farms because they spread diseases and destroy crops. Other SAWBO videos that educate farmers on how to control pests include, Biocontrol of Legume Pod Borer (Maruca vitrata), Climate-smart Push-pull System for Stem Borer Management in Maize, and How to Identify and Scout for Fall Armyworm.

When planning to trade in grains and other cereals: After the crops have been harvested, the challenges faced by agriprenuers and require attention shift from “caring for the crop” to “post-harvest and storage lose handling”. The handling of grains right from the farm to storage facilities and finally to the market is quite intricate. Most youths who plan to trade in buying and selling grains like maize, beans, soya, and other cereals were encouraged to watch SAWBO videos on Postharvest Loss: Bag Stacking and Postharvest Loss: Bag Transportation as this would help preserve grain quality and fetch good prices. Poor handling of grain while transporting and right in the store results in huge losses when done with lots of carelessness.

While borrowing from the D.I.C.E (Dry, Inspect, Clean, and Examine) video which elaborates how to protect grains during storage to prevent damage, the youthful agriprenuers were encouraged to use the knowledge to ensure little or no waste and maximize profits from sales.

Contents of this blog are the sole opinions of its author.

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