FAO in Kenya

Slow but steady progress towards private sector led extension

A private extension officer teaches a woman farmer how to take care of green gram sprouts at a conservation agriculture farm in Kwale County. Photo Credit: ©FAO/Luis Tato

Residents of Godo village, Mwereni ward have a popular joke they share among themselves. They call where they live ‘kwa manyani’, which loosely translates to where monkeys live. Godo village is in Kwale County, which is predominantly simply because they feel very detached from the rest of , a predominantly semi arid region of Kenya. In a nutshell: a forgotten people.

For five years, FAO worked with the residents of Godo village to address their challenges through the Increased productivity and profitability of small holder farmers through promotion and up – scaling of good agricultural practices (GAP) & conservation agriculture (CA) in productive Semi-Arid areas of Kenya (IPP-GAP) project that was funded by the European Union. 

Simon Ndanda is one of the private extension officers who has been the backbone of the farming success of Godo Village.

After his training in 2016 alongside 119 other private extension officers on the farming concept of Conservation Agriculture (CA), Simon started a demonstration plot where he and his two farmer groups – Sagalato and Songa Mbele - would meet every Saturday for training.‘Before we adopted CA, we used to harvest as low as 90kg of green grammes per acre but now, we are averaging 270kgs per acre,’ said Simon.The two groups, Sagalato and Songa Mbele who have 45 and 25 members each respectively, 60 out of the total 70 have at least 3 acres of pure stand green grammes and are expecting to harvest 3 bags of 100kg per acre, totaling to 54,000kg.

Initially, the going price of green grammes per kilogramme was Ksh 35, but Simon saw the need to aggregate the farmers’ produce and seek better paying markets. Last year, the two farmer groups harvested 12 bags (of 100kg each), and he was able to find a market willing to purchase at Ksh 100 per kilo. The Ksh 120,000/- income generated last year allowed the group to be able to meet the Ksh 21,250 per acre needed as input for maize and green grammes intercrop (seed, fertilizer, herbicides).

For Simon, the journey thus far has been a labour of love. Each day, he sets out at 0600 and walks for five kilometers to recruits farmers, who then meet at the demonstration farm every Saturday.  As part of the aggregation exercise, Mr. Ndanda solved the storage problem by taking up an abandoned bar and rehabilitating it to hold the increased bags of harvested green grammes that are duly packed in hematic bags. 

‘When I started, the concept of CA was frowned upon by the community. After the first harvest the farmers’ incomes have been increasing every year. Now children are always in school with their fees fully paid, there’s enough food for everyone and most of all, the land is preserved,’ said Simon. Mariamu Mlongo and Loise Ega of Sagalato group echoes Simon’s sentiments. ‘We used to get very little income from our plots of land, and the energy used to till it was immense. Farming was a really dirty job. Now, we get slightly dirty, use very little energy and get a very good harvest. With our intercrop of green grammes, cow peas and maize, we not only have our source of income secured, but we also have nutritious food for our families.’

So happy are the residents of Godo village with the farming concept of Conservation Agriculture that farming is no longer an activity taken up only by women. Husbands are happy, and are now very often seen playing an active role in the planting and harvesting of the crop.

According to the Kenya Bureau of Standards, Agriculture sector is the backbone of Kenya’s economy. It contributes about 25 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is the source of livelihood for most of the rural population.

Simon’s success as a private extension officer in Godo village is an excellent demonstration of how rural farming communities are the inevitable key to food security and reduction of poverty and hunger.