More than just a demonstration farm, a place farmers call home

By Bob Aston

The soothing rays of the sun seemed to energize the women as they worked tirelessly in the half an acre potato demonstration farm in Kiolo village, Mikinduri East in Meru County.  They animatedly chat as they weed and admire the beauty of the flowering crop. Most of them concur that they will realize a good harvest through the demonstration farm.

I joined the women together with Mr. Martin Murangiri, Field Coordinator and Liaison Officer at Sokopepe in taking stock of the progress of the farm. They inform us that the potatoes looked ‘beautiful’ as they had sprayed them with plantmate bio-organic fertilizer from Wanda Organic.

We finish weeding and then converge under a banana tree. The women have been meeting every Monday at the demonstration farm to learn good agricultural practices and record keeping from Sokopepe’s Production Information Agents (PIAs).

Their leader, Mrs. Margaret Wangari started by reminding them of their decision to plant the Sherekea potato variety  which is disease resistant, high yielding and drought tolerant. She said that not many farmers in the area cultivate potatoes but Sokopepe convinced them to diversify to potatoes and other high value crops.

The passion and enthusiasm exhibited by the women was eminent as they recollected how Sokopepe is enabling them to increase their income through Farm Records Management Information System (FARMIS). Out of curiosity, I asked one of the women what she felt about FARMIS.

Mrs. Paulina Nkoroi narrated how she only realised that the cause of her dwindling potato production was the use of previous harvests as tubers for planting. The training conducted by Sokopepe at the demonstration farm enabled her to appreciate the importance of using certified seeds and embracing good farm management practices.

“Sokopepe has changed my perception on agriculture and the importance of record keeping in agribusiness,” said Mrs. Nkoroi.

She reiterates that she has learned how to fill her farm book and at the end of this season, she will be able to determine whether she is engaging in profitable enterprises or not. This will enable her to opt to growing other lucrative crops and therefore enhance her household income.

“I now know that good land preparation, use of high quality seeds and appropriate fertilizer is paramount in potato farming,” noted Mrs. Florence Munjaro.

Mrs. Munjaro said she has been diligently filling in her farm book and she hopes that at the end of this season she will be able to extract a profit and loss statement. Previously, she did not know whether she was making a profit or loss from her agricultural enterprises. Receiving extension services from Sokopepe’s PIAs has motivated and given her hope that she can succeed as a farmer.

“I want to make money and I believe that the knowledge that I am gaining will help me become a better farmer,” said Mrs. Munjaro.

Mr. Murangiri said that Sokopepe decided to establish the demonstration plot to help farmers learn how to improve their farming practices, adopt new technologies and practice climate smart agriculture.

“On-farm demonstrations serve as one of the most effective extension education tools. We hope that farmers are replicating what they are learning,” said Mr. Murangiri.

On-farm demonstrations are effective means of reducing the risks farmers anticipate.  The demonstrations allow farmers to see, hear, discuss, participate and learn by doing, as most farmers believe that ‘seeing is believing.’