Just How Hard is Farming?
Farming is a tough job that has great potential in Kenya. However there are a lot of challenges that face small scale farmers in Kenya. Below are some of these reasons;
ACCESS TO INFORMATION
Information is very important in a lot of things and one of them is farming. Lack of information comes on top of my lost because once you have it you can make wise decisions in your agribusiness investment. When I was starting out in farming I faced the same challenge. I used hear a lot of agribusiness success stories around me but no one told me the exact step by step process on how to get into horticulture. This is very frustrating. I ended up collecting bits and pieces of information and decided they were enough to jump start my farming initiative. By doing this I missed key steps that would have saved my crops on the field. I am sure you know there is nothing demoralizing as losing your crops after seeing them perform quite well for some time. The only thing that kept me going was passion and my desire to succeed.
Inadequate or lack of information affects as all and it makes us miss out on new and improved methods of farming. People living in the rural areas face even bigger challenges because they have no way of accessing the most basic information on farming. They practice farming as a way of life and not as a business because they don’t know how to improve their yields, information on how to get better seeds or how to perform record keeping.
They also miss out on affordable but effective farming methods such as organic farming, crop rotation and irrigation. Farming then ends up being bothersome due to the constant low yields and losses brought by lack of information. We need to have more educational sessions like that of Shamba Shape Up to teach individuals who are unable read information provided to them. Other solutions to this problem will the use of SMS based platforms to send information to farmers.
ACCESS TO START UP CAPITAL
This world sometimes never seems to fair at all. Before you succeed you have to struggle first because nothing ever comes easy. Lack of financial support is a challenge that constantly affects most of us. We need money to grow, expand and maintain our farm yields. However there are limited financial group institutions in Kenya today and not many farmers in Kenya have access to these groups. Things are tough. Getting money to start your agribusiness venture is one of the toughest things to do. I remember when I decided to take up farming I approached a bank with an intention of getting an agribusiness loan. I was told that I needed to have at least an income per month to qualify for an agribusiness loan. It was so disappointing. So I decided to look for employment so that I could save up money per month and start small. I loved farming so I was patient until I had saved up enough to start. This experience taught me something; that if you save the little you have and start small you will end up growing naturally and gain wisdom on agribusiness decision making over time. If the government can assist beginner farmers on this starting an agribusiness venture will have been made a step simpler.
I commend the government for improving our road network. Our roads today are definitely not the roads we had yesterday. Our are changing for the better and its common to see caterpillars working and restructuring roads all over Kenya. However they need to fast track this process and move the roads development into the rural areas. Farmers living in the rural areas face major challenges when it comes to transportation. Their farm produce get rotten on the farm because there roads are in poor conditions to get to the local market. Farmers in remote areas suffer the most because they cannot even store their perishable produce anywhere near them. It all ends up rotting away. If we could have strategic storage points all over the country for farmers to store their crops this would go a long way in saving your investment.
Recently I planted one (1) acre of sukuma wiki on my farm after timing the season in regard to produce demand. When I looked at my shamba, I saw my crops were doing quite well and was congratulated everywhere for the good work done. I knew this season I was going to rake in some good cash. However when it came to selling the produce things the profit forecast that I saw on the NAFIS website I had made did not turn out as expected. The market cartels dropped the prices to 500 bob per bag. Farmers who were supplying to schools were being given KES 2,900 per bag. It was not funny at all.
We need to have good government regulations, improved market facilities so that it can help not just beginner farmers but all farmers sell their produce and make a decent profit from it.
A great assessment of the challenges. Agribusiness in Kenya is however a profitable venture which has often suffered from under investment. Most Kenyans have chunks of land that is often seen as unprofitable because of lack of water in such areas. Irrigation though can change this for good only if county governments undertake projects such as sinking boreholes in order to facilitate irrigation. With the availability of electricity now in most rural areas, farming could rely turn fortunes around.