The National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP) has recruited and trained 54 new agricultural extension officers in Nakuru County.
The youths will steer the newly adopted Farmers Field Schools program for smallholder farmers.
Chief Officer for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Dr. Maina Kibet says the officers will help farmer groups venturing into beekeeping, dairy, Irish potatoes and poultry adopt best practices for improved outcomes.
NARIGP has been rolled out in Molo, Njoro, Kuresoi South, Bahati and Naivasha sub-counties in 20 selected wards and is providing start-up grants to farmer groups in beekeeping, dairy, Irish potato and poultry value chains.
Dr. Kibet observed that in an effort to improve income for farmers in the more than 250 farmer groups across the targeted areas, 40 participating farmers in each of the groups need continuous guidance in order to put the grants to good use.
In a county that is grappling with a worrying deficit of agricultural extension staff, the officers come to boost efforts of the directorate of agriculture in providing agricultural advisory to at least 10,000 households whose livelihoods are hinged on Agriculture.
He noted that the officers will help farmers tackle challenges holding back the dairy, bee, indigenous chicken and sweet potato subsectors against a backdrop of effects of job losses and economic slump due to the corona virus global pandemic.
Their weekly sessions with farmers will also involve training farmers on proper bookkeeping, basic market research to know preferences and changing trends among consumers, homemade feeds formulation and storage in the effort to improve outcomes in apiculture, poultry, Dairy and Irish Potato farming.
He observed that boosting utilization of certified seeds for potato growers in Kenya has the potential of improving the production of the crop to 40 tons per hectare against the current seven tons per hectare.
Dr. Kibet noted Irish potato (Solanum tuberosum) is the second most important food crop in Kenya, after maize. saying NARIGP has developed a training curriculum to demonstrate that the tuber can be used as a raw material to produce a variety of products if value chain addition is adopted in the Ksh.10 Billion sub-sector.
Each group with a viable proposal in the four subsectors is enrolled in the program and is funded to the tune of Ksh 500, 000 to help shore up rural economies by creating jobs and wealth for women, youth and people with disabilities.
Lead trainer Dr. John Omoro said the small and dynamic team of youthful extension officers will be in constant touch with farmers and will be resourceful in motivating the adoption of innovative technologies among young farmers for improved yields.
The coordinator of Community Development component of the project in Nakuru County Jennifer Bett advised targeted farmers to cooperate with the extension officers for better outcomes.
The Ksh 22.6 billion World Bank-funded National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project aims to increase agricultural productivity in twenty-one counties targeting 360,000 people, with a special focus on vulnerable and marginalized groups, youths and women.
The selected counties include Nakuru Turkana, Makueni, Meru, Kitui, Embu, Kilifi, Kwale, Narok, Kirinyaga, Kiambu and Murang’a. Others are Trans Nzoia, Nandi, Vihiga, Kisii, Nyamira, Migori, Homa Bay and Bungoma.