Philip Mulama Nyangweso is a professor of agricultural economics and resource management at Moi University and a former chairman of Africa Farm Management Association (AFMA), which brings together academicians, farmers, scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, and technocrats working together to enhance agricultural productivity in Africa. He spoke to Francis Mureithi on how smallholders can commercialize their farms and farm sustainably.
Why is good farm management crucial to smallholders?
The world has become conscious of what comes from the farm and how the farm is utilized to produce food. The focus is on the sustainability of agricultural production and food safety. Sustainability requires that we balance issues of productivity, profitability, and environmental care. If we manage our farms sustainably, then we will be able to produce enough food for the growing population.
These are things that are easily done on the farm, including choosing quality seed varieties and breeding stock for livestock, having good storage facilities to avoid post-harvest losses, control of pests, and adding value to produce.
All these contribute to overall food production and profits for farmers.
They must work on minimizing costs by going for quality but affordable inputs. They must further ensure they operate efficiently by getting cost-effective labor. When looking for markets, they must avoid exploitative brokers. On mechanization, they should use machines adaptable to small farms.
It brings all stakeholders on board. This is not an association of academicians. They interact and exchange ideas, knowledge, skills and technologies. This cross-breeding of ideas enables farmers to learn and pick skills and technologies that they apply on their farms.
Smallholder farmers must be well-informed and empowered to make the right decisions on where to get farm inputs and buy machines, how to control disease and pests and sell produce.
By applying proper management of soils and using sustainable cultivation practices; those that do not damage the soil and biodiversity. They need to use minimum chemicals and pesticides and conserve the environment to reduce the emission of greenhouse.
Smallholder farmers must be empowered. The government must be at the forefront in ensuring that the various stakeholders are aware of the signals that come with climate change. Farmers must know the risks emanating from climate change and how to respond.
This will make it easier for them to address these challenges. We need a policy framework that facilitates smallholder farmers to access knowledge that would help them mitigate the effects of climate change.
Farmers should plant crops that are resilient to drought, pests and diseases, and mature early like finger millet and sorghum. They should also plant crops that are resistant to bird attacks and do mixed farming instead of relying on one crop or animal. Keeping of zebus, small animals like goats and sheep which are relatively resistant to drought and diseases helps.
Camels can survive for long periods in dry areas as they withstand tough terrain.KEEP READING
PRESIDENT ELECT SPEECH
The PS State Department for Agriculture and Research, Prof. Hamadi Boga
The Outgoing President of AFMA
CEC Agriculture, Nakuru County, Dr. Immaculate Maina
Vice Chancellor, Moi University
Vice Chancellor, Egerton University
Deputy Vice Chancellor present
Industry CEOs from the Agroprocessors, KENTASTE, Malindi fruit processors and the Hive International
Our Farmers Mr. Kirwa, Mr Makatiani, Mr Nganga and farmers represented all over the country,
AFMA LOC members
Media, in particular Nation Media
Key note presenters and other presenters
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to extend a special appreciation to you all, and honorably accept this challenge to spearhead AFMA in the next phase of its progression as it addresses Africa Problems using Africa Solutions.
I hope you have enjoyed your stay and interactions.
The mission of AFMA is to share and provide African Solutions to African problems and address Farm based challenges in Africa but with working knowledge gathered globally, and to strengthen farmers local capacity for conducting efficient farming activities and farm based innovations to achieve sustainable food security across the African Continent.
I must again appreciate presenters and exhibiters who have come to share the results of their research, innovations and experiences and for the policy makers and advocacy groups for their efforts towards enhancing food security and sustainable agricultural development in Africa as a whole.
Over 40 presenters and exhibitors have participated in this conferences and my expectations is that the knowledge here will be used to advance good practice in agriculture and not remain in the shelves. I must commend the LOC, the teams that have made this a success,
AFMA has made a lot of contributions via the workshops and through its journal publications.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me now to expand my speech briefly on some of the key issues I would advance going forward as we address challenges in the African development agenda.
The African continent ranks as the least developed in the world. Yet when we rank the continents on a scale of abundance of raw materials, the African continent is the richest.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a huge contradiction. The question that bothers me most is, why the African continent still remain the least developed in the world when, on the other hand, it is the richest continent in terms of raw materials?
In my view, part of the answer to this question lies in the fact that Africa exports its raw materials, with no value-addition; and imports abroad value-added products (originally from her raw materials) at high costs.
Worse of it all is that Africa does not determine the price of her raw materials, instead the importers in Europe, North America and the rest of the World does that. Similarly, when Africa imports the value-added goods, the exporter abroad determines the price. The net result is that either way Africa is short-changed.
The truth, ladies and gentlemen, is that Africa should not have challenges in food security if we consider the fact that some parts of the African continent have good soils for agricultural farming, good rainfalls, and perennial rivers from which we can build dams and start agricultural irrigation schemes to feed the whole continent and export the surplus.
As AFMA forges ahead, we need to DRESS DOWN our approach to dissemination. We must put on gumboots, and pick farm tools to make AFMA more real to the practitioners. This effort will entail expanding registration and participation of more Farmers, Agro-Industry, Environmentalists and expand corporate membership besides the individual membership. In addition, our dissemination should focus more on participatory conference with equal time for farm visits to farms and agro-industry including NGOs working to support farmers in all parts of Africa. This will enhance ownership by corporate agro-practitioners for sustainability of AFMA in view of the reducing donor support.
Second is on Youth Enablers: Africa is endowed both with natural resources and also a booming youth population. Going forward, I will seek to include a young farmers/practioners time in AFMA workshops to enhance more involvement of youths engaged in agriculture and to encourage more young people to view farming as business. This could also involve award based competition on presentation of creative business ideas with judges being farmers and agro processors, who could contribute modest award, including awards inform of employment opportunity.
Short Courses as a side event in AFMA. Short courses focusing on good farming practices will be explored to be embedded in all AFMA conferences. This will be availed to Farmers, agro-processors and youths interested in agriculture. This would take the form of partial training and farm visits just before the conference and or after, with beneficiaries leaving with certificates of participation.
AFMA is an important avenue, that I will seek to mobilize best brains on farm management and set up a profile of experts to be consultants and make AFMA as a technical backstopping for all problems in Farm Management. This could also include preparing manuals for farmers and proposal teams to respond to calls so as to expand registration funds and existing donor funds.
Indeed, Africa is facing stagnated movement from research to development, I will seek to expand thematic areas to focus beyond scientific research to development and policy.
In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to once again thank the LOC and AFMA fraternity for giving me this opportunity to add to what the outgoing president have done so far.
With these many remarks,
I Thank you all very much.KEEP READING