By Bob Aston
The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries held a two-day workshop on Maize Value Chain at Olivia Court Motel, Sipili in Laikipia West Sub County on November 25-26, 2015.
A total of 85 farmers drawn from Ol-Moran Ward attended the workshop. Its aim was to enhance farmer’s production skills on maize value chain, to share production and marketing experiences, to enhance systematic record keeping by maize farmers, to improve cereals aggregation and to reduce post-harvest grain losses.
Speaking during the opening of the workshop, Mr. Noah Lusaka, ALIN Projects Manager noted that the organization has been involved in improving farmer’s access to knowledge and skills through various Maarifa Centres in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.
He said that in Ol-Moran Ward the organization is promoting maize, tree tomato and tomato value chains. Through a participatory approach in 2013, farmers had identified the three value chains as the priority areas in the ward.
“We have been organizing workshops and field days for farmers in the three value chains. We expect that the information gathered by farmers will help them adopt best agricultural practices and thus realize better returns,” said Mr. Lusaka.
He said that ALIN aims to strengthen the three value chains and ensure farmers play an active role . He noted that the organization is keen in promoting the value chain approach as this can promote inclusive economic growth.
Some of the challenges listed by farmers included high input cost, frequent drought, substandard inputs, low soil fertility, human-wildlife conflict, lack of access to appropriate information, difficulty in access credit facilities, high cost of unskilled labour, pests and diseases, and high post-harvest losses.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries noted that land under maize cultivation in Ol-Moran Ward has been increasing while production has been declining over the years. Most farmers noted that they are harvesting an average of 10 - 18 bags per acre.
During the workshop, a lot of emphasis was put on the importance of soil analysis as an aid to assessing soil fertility and plant nutrient requirements and management as well as adoption of best agricultural practices as the best ways of reversing the decline in maize production.
Mr. Kipyegon Kipkemei from the Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC) urged farmers to aggregate their cereals instead of selling cheaply to traders. He said that EAGC is working with cereal banks in the ward to ensure that they receive Warehousing Receipting System certification.
”Warehousing Receipting System helps in mobilizing agricultural credit by creating secure collateral for farmers. It also ensures better storage facilities as well as reduced risks in the agricultural markets,” said Mr. Kipkemei.
He said that farmers have the option to sell when they can get the best price for their cereals. This reduces exploitation during the harvest season when the farm gate prices are low.