If you eat food, then what happens to the farmer should, indeed, interest you.
We all enjoy nice, warm, hearty meals but, for the farmer to keep up production, a fair deal must be provided.
While farmers play a big role in determining food security, they face serious challenges, which if well addressed, would make agriculture more attractive as a profession.
Below are some the factors in farming, which determine the thin line between profit and loss.
Information is power Farmers need to get techsavvy. Most of the problems farmers experience, are as a result of ignorance, and poor access to adequate agricultural information.
In this modern era, farmers have to stay up to date on the latest agricultural technologies and information, to keep up with their production requirements.
Farming without prior knowledge leads to decreased yields. Technology has tried to bridge this gap today, with some level of success.
Good farming practices increase productivity. To do this, farmers need access to information on where to get quality seeds, fertilizers and markets for their produce.
Visiting and trainings of farmers’ groups have proven to be effective, where extension services are limited.
The officer visits a group of farmers, especially the influential and well known in the society, and trains them. The farmers then pass on the knowledge to others.
Where farmers have smart phones, extension officers can also form farmer WhatsApp groups to exchange ideas and experiences.
2 .Overdependence on rain-fed agriculture
Farmers should stop depending on rain-fed agriculture. A good example is when I recently visited farmers in Naru Moru. They planted at the onset of the rains, but the rains disappeared for two months and they lost their crop.
Not all farmers can afford boreholes or irrigation systems, but water pans can help in water harvesting and storage.
They need to learn to construct these water pans, which store water harvested during the heavy rains for later use when the rains disappear.
I have once done it with a group of farmers in Nessuit- Njoro Nakuru County and it worked quite well.
Market in accessibility
Nothing gives farmers joy more than selling their crops for good cash and at the right time. However, most of them get peanuts due to the overflooding of a particular commodity in the market and middlemen.
Peak seasons come with ov e r s u p p l y and low prices, while high prices dominate offpeak seasons.
The fluctuation of prices and the supply-demand of agricultural commodities are challenge to the farmers.
Produce a constant supply of commodities. Seasonal production of the same crops leads to excesses in the market, while consistency in production encourages stable markets.
Embrace crop rotation so that you produce different crops at different times, for balanced prices.
The government can also come up with a policy to standardize agricultural commodity prices and uniform measurements for crop yield quantities to protect the farmers from unscrupulous middlemen.
If all these challenges are addressed, farmers will be a happy lot, and once again Kenya will have its galleries full. Let us come together for this to be achievable.