Farmer

Between March and May in Kenya, farmers’ events are usually at the peak, with various agro-input suppliers, trainers and government institutions organizing exhibitions for the producers.

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), however, changed the tradition this year, with the government banning all social events.

But this has not deterred farmers and agro-input suppliers, among others, from meeting – albeit virtually.

The events are happening online on social media platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook, with farmers receiving advice on various issues and are able to buy different inputs displayed.

“About this time if all had gone well, I would be selling these fruit seedlings at an event in Meru. Let me display them here, from six months to four years,” wrote Joseph Kitetu on a farmers’ WhatsApp group on Friday.

He soon started to field questions from eager farmers as some made orders for the pawpaw, passion and strawberry seedlings.

And using videos, agriculturalist Zachary Kimani educated farmers on how to grow onions in plastic bottles, particularly in urban area.

The crop specialist uploaded videos on the WhatsApp platform that took farmers through the steps as he explained, and answered questions, just as it happens at field days.

“If you want to do good grafting, ensure you don’t pick the scion from a tree that is fruiting. The new plant will start fruiting at an early stage if you do so,” Patrick Osaji, a seedling propagator explained in a video as he showed farmers how the process is done.

Agro-input suppliers and trainers, on the other hand, are using the platforms to offer online training and invite farmers to online meetings carried out through Zoom to discuss various topics.

The firms assemble a panel of experts and ask farmers to send questions, some accompanied by photos or videos of their problems.

“Please help, is this cutworm?” asked farmer Joy Mutisya as she posted a photo of her crop in a greenhouse.

An expert from Amiran, a horticultural company, advised on the specific pesticide the farmer can use to eliminate the pest.

Similarly, Cooper Kenya, a livestock solutions company, now conducts regularly live training for farmers on Facebook on specific livestock issues that include field formulation and disease eradication.

Normally, the company organizes physical training for farmers or holds them at field days.

Some Kenyan farmers have adopted to the new world of doing things, fitting in well despite being used to physical seminars, field days and training.

“This disease has shown us an alternative way of carrying out our activities, from seeking agronomical advice to buying and selling products. Yes, now we know that we do not have to meet physically to get things done,” Collins Karithi, a tomato farmer in Kitengela, south of Nairobi, who belongs to several farmers’ groups, said on phone on Saturday. Enditem

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