Elizabeth Kyengo via web
Food safety and food losses are largely attributed to poor pest and disease management practices, such as use of wrong pesticide, wrong application method, wrong dosage, wrong timing, and inappropriate application equipment. While agro-chemicals can boost production, misuse of pesticides pose the biggest threat towards improving food safety. Food safety is a rising concern in Kenya, especially in the horticulture sector. Improvement of food safety is therefore a key thematic area in the Kenya Market-led Horticulture Programme (HortIMPACT). As a result, HortIMPACT and the Agrochemical Association of Kenya teamed up to train and certify 480 SSPs in 6 counties Makueni, Bungoma, Kajiado, Nyahururu, Nyeri, Nakuru to provide integrated pest management services and services to farmers at a competitive fee. These extension entrepreneurs were trained on the basics of Integrated Soil Fertility Management (IFSM), such as soil sampling/testing/analysis, fertilizers, soil fertility management Integrated Pest Management (IPM), including bio-pesticides and business development and management aspects.
The trainings were followed by awareness meetings to introduce the trained SSPs to the farming communities in their respective counties. Stakeholder meetings were organized in each of the counties to introduce the SSPs to the agricultural sector stakeholders operating within the counties. The meetings were attended by stakeholders from private sector companies, government parastatals, research organizations, universities, financial Institutions, agriculture industry associations, producer organizations, NGOs, and respective county government agriculture departments.
All the 6 county governments acknowledged, adopted and incorporated SSPs services into county agricultural activities. Most importantly, some county governments went ahead and engaged trained SSPs in selected county agricultural activities. Bungoma used the services of trained SSPs to contain the outbreak of Fall Army Worms in the county. Makueni County engaged the SSPs for the distribution of subsidized fruit fly traps and farmer training on use of these pheromone traps in mango orchards. These two sample cases demonstrated trust built between County Governments and SSPs. In situations where a County Government wants to conduct an operation like containing a certain pest outbreak, they create awareness to farmers through chief’s barazas. Farmers have over time demonstrated the trust they have with government extension officers. In this regard, SSPs trained through Business Case 3 got a perfect opportunity to market themselves and cover a wider customer base with their services and grow their business. The County Government of Makueni county went a step further and equipped SSPs with motorized spraying pumps to enhance service provision to farmers. Nyeri and Makueni Governments issued the trained entrepreneurs with certificates as a sign of recognition. The buy in of SSP services from County Governments has made it easier for SSPs to reach out to farmers and build trust on their services at the very onset.
It is expected that IPM services offered to SME farmers by 480 SSPs will contribute to better yields, improved food safety and a reduction in health & environmental hazards. It is anticipated that the trained SSPs will be providing service to an estimated 7,200 farmers annually. HortIMPACT will also try to promote the SSP services to processing companies, buying the raw material in the counties.