In Kisumu West, a lush and green county in the west of Kenya, “everybody is a farmer”, says Alice Nyariaro. “For the 130,000 people living in this area, farming is the backbone of the economy.”
The 49-year old Home Economics training officer has been providing support to farmers in Kisumu West for many years and, thanks to her, they are now benefitting from new skills and knowledge, straight from some of the best agricultural experts in the UK.
In 2017, Alice attended a leading UK agricultural college on a 10-week training course supported by the Marshal Papworth Fund.
“It was very educational. The skills I learned were very elaborate, yet easy to apply in the field,” explains Alice. The farmer groups she works with have benefitted from her knowledge, applying some of the techniques Alice brought back from her course.
“I was very impressed with soil testing, and how much it can tell us about what inputs your land needs, what will grow best etc. We have started taking soil samples and bringing them to a lab” says Alice.
“We’ve also started making natural compost for our vegetables, like I’ve seen at Moulton College in the UK. It is improving our soil structure. We are planning to take it a step further and to start selling compost to the community,” she explains.
“One of the biggest challenges that farmers had before was that the markets were flooded. Farmers would produce whatever they could and then bring it to the market. Today, I encourage them to do market surveys in order to produce according to the demand,” she adds.
The 10-week course was truly life-changing for Alice, who says that she has improved her communications skills and is now able to pass on her knowledge more effectively during her training sessions.
“When I was in England we visited farms and agricultural shows. I was inspired to see so many young people involved in agriculture,” she recalls. “Here in Kenya, most farmers are over 70 years old. I think it is important to get the youth involved because they are energetic and innovative, and they can produce more. Through my trainings, they realise there is a future for them in agriculture.”
“I am so grateful to Self Help Africa and Marshal Papworth for this experience. I hope more farmers will be able to attend the course to learn hands-on skills, implement them in the field and spread the message to farming communities back at home.”
Every year, Self Help Africa selects candidates to receive the annual scholarship from the Marshal Papworth Fund, allowing farmers and farm trainers from across sub-Saharan Africa to attend the agricultural and horticultural 10-week course in the UK.