The race is on to find Kenya’s best farmer

John Njoroge is the assistant director of agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. He is also a judge and co-ordinator of the National Farmers Competition Award Scheme. He talks to Seeds of Gold’s Brian Okinda about the prize to be awarded later this year

SoG: What is the National Farmers Competition Award Scheme all about and how important are farmers to the country’s economy?
JN: The role of farmers, whether small or large scale, to the country’s food security and the economy by extension is an important one, which can neither be overlooked or disregarded.

The country’s agricultural sector is unquestionably the nerve of our economy, contributing the bulk of earnings and employing over 75 per cent of its population, both directly and indirectly.

SoG: When was the award scheme started and who are its custodians?

JN: The award scheme was initially started in the 1990s by the then president Daniel arap Moi. The pioneering Presidential Farmers’ Competitions Award Scheme had been an annual prize which the Ministry of Agriculture had been managing.

However, since 2013, Elgon Kenya Ltd, a regional agro input firm, inspired by the hard work of the many smallholder farmers, sought to take part in rewarding them each year working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, hence the birth of the National Farmers Competition Award Scheme, which in 2013 replaced the Presidential Farmers’ Competitions Award Scheme.

How are the farmers categorised and awarded?
The award scheme currently has eight competitive categories, up from the initial three.

The categories are, small scale farm gearing towards commercialisation, small scale fully commercialised farm, large scale fully commercialised farm, small scale agro-input dealer, large scale agro-input dealer, women in agriculture, youth in agriculture and the physically challenged persons in agriculture, and farmers countrywide can take part in these categories.

SoG: What are judges looking for?

JN: We look for features such as best crop husbandry, soil conservation, afforestation, proper record keeping, suitability of the crops grown to the ecological zones where the farmer is growing them, fertiliser use and appropriate disease control practices among others.

The same case applies to livestock and fish farming. Suitability of the livestock and fish breeds kept, their production per day, animal health, good record keeping, health and sanitation and level of commercialisation of the undertaking, are among the properties that we look for too.

SoG: How can a farmer participate?
JN: It starts with the farmers filling in the participation form that is distributed by the Ministry of Agriculture to various agricultural offices in the counties, starting from the ward level.

The ministry’s extension officials will then visit the farms checking for the requisite qualifications and then award points according to the levels to which the farm meets their standards.

The judges will then select those who take the first three positions in each category and they will be awarded at a gala dinner in Nairobi later on this year.

The winners who takes first position in each category will be awarded by the President during the Nairobi International Trade Fair.

They will be rewarded by Elgon Kenya Ltd and also the Ministry of Agriculture.

SoG: What do the farmers stand to win and how beneficial is it to other prospective farmers?
JN: The winner of each category will receive a trophy, a certificate, financing for farming inputs and gift hampers from Elgon Kenya Ltd and also the Ministry of Agriculture.

Their names will also be featured in the Seeds of Gold magazine.

SoG: Other than through the county agricultural officials, how else can farmers access these participation forms to fill?

JN: This year’s application process was closed and the judges are currently in the process of finalising the judging of the winners.

The application process for participation in next year’s awards however will commence in January 2018 and run to May.

SoG: Why did you incorporate a separate category for youth and the physically challenged?

JN: Majority of farmers in the country are aged. It is therefore prudent that we strive to bring the youth into agriculture and agribusiness as their input and knowledge of modern farming technologies is invaluable.

The physically challenged are also motivated in this way so that they become self-dependent.

Kenya’s annual silk production is hardly above 2 metric tonnes of dried cocoons, yet the national potential is over 10,000 metric tonnes.

Lessons galore in fifth farmers’ clinic

Tillerson looks to defuse Qatar crisis on Gulf tour