Some came by foot, others used boda bodas. Some drove themselves to the venue, while others hopped on matatus and school buses.
The chilly weather did not dampen their enthusiasm as they converged at the Rift Valley Technical Training Institute, some two kilometres from Eldoret town, for the fifth Seeds of Gold farm clinic.
Armed with notebooks and pens and a copy of the Saturday Nation, the farmers were here on a mission to pick up valuable information that will enable them improve their agribusinesses.
Some had travelled from as far as Nakuru, West Pokot, Vihiga, Kisumu and Kakamega while many had come from Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo-Marakwet and Trans Nzoia counties.
Waiting to engage them were experts from Egerton University, Elgon Kenya Ltd and Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organisation, among others.
The farmers’ queries ranged from agro-inputs to pest and disease control to farm management, soil testing, crop and livestock husbandry, feeds and feed preparation, market for produce and agriculture financing.
John Kiprono, a small-scale dairy farmer from Uasin Gishu wanted to know whether maize stalks had any nutritional value for his cows.
“I have been grinding dry maize stalks after harvesting my maize and feeding them to my cows. But the milk production has always remained low,” he posed.
Ronald Kimitei, an animal scientist from Egerton University told the farmer that dry stalks lacked nutrients.
“Dry maize stalks contain almost zero nutritional value. It is important for farmers to grow maize and use it in silage making. But they must be harvested in the right stage (not after flower stage or seed stage),” he said.
The expert said that what a dairy cow needs is Kikuyu grass which has about 22 per cent nutritional value, brachiaria, rhodes or star grass (13 percent), napier grass in that order of nutritional value.
“Poor nutrition apart from reproduction can contribute to infertility. It is also important to give them enough minerals,” said Mr Kimitei.
Another farmer from Vihiga wanted to know how to take care of poultry during this cold season.
Mr Kimitei said that it was important to check on the behavioural nature of the birds.
“They should be evenly spread inside where they stay. For instance, if they cluster in one corner, it means the rooms is too cold or when they move away from the source of heat, the temperatures are too high,” noted the animal expert.
Prof Paul Kimurto, Egerton University’s crop expert, said wheat had come under attack of UG-99 rust.
“This is form of wheat rust has caused some resistance forcing farmers to spray for up to six times. However, there are several new wheat varieties such as Eagle 10, Kenya Robbin, among others which have reduced the number of spraying to two-three,” said Prof Kumurto, adding that the soils especially in Uasin Gishu had become too acidic.
Prof Kimurto added, “Farmers need to diversify by growing crops such as sorghum, groundnuts, pearl millet to break the cycle of some the soil diseases and improve on soil fertility.”
Patrick Kalama, a Kalro expert, said that it was important to control the spread of armyworm, the migratory pest, in the first three stages to curb its multiplication and spread.
“There are up to six stages and there are a number of pesticides recommended by government and it is important to liaise with an extension officer before purchasing them,” he added.
GAME CHANGER IN BRIDGING INFORMATION GAP
Nelson Maina, head of communication at Elgon Kenya Ltd said that the clinics are a game changer in bridging the information gap in the agricultural sector.
“The extension officers we have in this country are not enough and these clinics have helped to assist farmers get quality knowledge and skills from the experts from research institutions,” he says.
He said farmers access a wide range of products at farm level as compared to when they just go to an agrovet and purchase a product that they have very little knowledge and guidelines about.
Peter Njeru of Simba Corp said that farmers currently have many different machines to ease work their farms, including pick-up trucks and tractors.
“Apart from easing work on the farm, one can generate more money by renting out to other farmers,” noted Njeru.
Last Saturday’s event theme was “Building Farming Capacity of Farmers for Greater Yields” and it focused on in-depth training on agribusiness and modern farming technologies, agricultural developments, information sharing and innovations that the farmer can invest in and boost agribusiness, curb hunger and food insecurity, and mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.
Victor Njeri, Nation Media Group business executive, said the clinics have presented a golden opportunity to farmers to access quality information from experts.
“We work with research institutions such as Kalro because they are the farming experts. In addition, we also showcase some of the successful farmers to share their skills and experience with other farmers,” he says.
He adds: “We have had successful events and we are looking forward to actually increasing the number of days to two or three days to adjust.
The duty of feeding our nation is for all of us and the clarion call is to rise to the occasion and ensure that we support our food producers.