Kenya is full of farmers, or so one can be led to believe through social media. On Facebook alone, more than 37,000 Kenyans are members of Digital Farmers Kenya, Farming Kenya has 33,000 while Mkulima Young boasts 76,418. All these Kenyans announce that they ‘farm’, and sell some produce or the other. Browsing through the posts, however, you read a few lamentations of encounters with fake farmers. One comment from a conned member read, ‘are members here real farmers?’
Well then, how do you tell a real farmer from a fake? The test of a real farmer is not how many kilos of watermelon or nyanya they can plant. Neither is it the size of acres they can lease in Narok to grow wheat. No. A real farmer is one who can make cassavas happy and sell them to the strict customers of Kisumo.
Collect a few Facebook farmers and ask them to harvest mihogo. Any of them who goes hammers and tongs digging with all his strength at the base is surely not a farmer. A real farmer scrapes off the soil slowly, taking care not to scratch the precious food. Then he holds the stem close to the base and pulls up and away, gently, all the time testing to get out all the tubers intact. If he doesn’t do this and jerks the plant, the cassava gets angry and starts sulking.
Once successfully drawn out, the cassava tubers have to be separated from the plant. A fake farmer will jerk the individual tubers off. A real farmer will settle the plant down gently and wring the tubers off from the base, one by one. And then the crucial moment: the moment cassavas watch you and test you to see what kind of relationship you have with them.
A fake farmer will hurl the cassava on the boot of his car and drive away to the market, tossing them this way and that way. This is what cassavas don’t like. They get quite mad at this mistreatment, and real farmers will tell you that a scorned cassava is a deadly cassava.
So what to do? A real farmer caresses the tubers, gently massaging and placing them with great care in good packaging.
Finally, the test of selling. When you finally go to the market in Kisumo, the customers order you to first eat and swallow raw as they watch. Any farmer who mistreated their cassava will find that it is bitter, the cassava having got angry and spoiled its own flesh so that the fake farmer doesn’t get a market.
On the other hand, a real farmer who treated his crop well will get happy cassavas, which will be meaty and chewy, as sweet as the moment a customer produces wads of real shillings to buy tones of mihogo.
I say this. Let all Facebook ‘farmers’ be tested with cassava. A real farmer is equal to a happy cassava.