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Firm targets small scale farmers with digital tools to improve crop yields

By Edwin Nyarangi | September 1st 2019
Yara East Africa Limited Commercial Director Vitalis Wafula (left) and head of digital farming Fredrick Nyambare (right) together with Kisii County Agriculture CEC Esman Onsarigo at a Kisii hotel. The firm held a meeting with agriculture CECs and farmers from the Lake Basin region. [Edwin Nyarangi, Standard]

Six counties in Nyanza and South Rift will work with Yara East Africa, a fertiliser manufacturing firm, to develop digital solutions to address challenges facing smallholder farmers.

County Executive Committee members in charge of agriculture from Kisii, Nyamira, Kericho, Bomet, Migori and Homa Bay who met in Kisii town said the mobile phone-based weather application targeting farmers was a great idea.

Kisii County Agriculture CEC Esman Onsarigo asked Yara to engage county governments directly since agriculture is a devolved function and that for it to achieve its objective it needs the support of the county administrations across the country for successful farming practices.

“Despite Yara being in the market for the last 115 years it is worthy to note that most farmers might not recognise the company by name and are only aware of the farm inputs that they produce such as their fertilisers,” said Onsarigo.

Migori Agriculture CEC Valentine Ogongo urged fellow agriculture CECs to work together to safeguard interests of the small scale farmers who play a great role in ensuring food security. “Yara needs to develop farm inputs for specific areas to ensure quality production of enough food for local consumption and export,” said Ogongo.

Homa Bay Agriculture CEC Aguko Juma said the company had a lot of work to do to ensure its presence is felt in various parts of the country since very few Kenyans knew of its existence despite its products being used by many farmers.

Albert Kirui, the proprietor of Tulwet Farmers Agrovet in Kericho County and distributor of Yara fertilisers, expressed satisfaction with Yara’s approach to ensure knowledge goes down to the farmers and collaboration with counties and distributors. “We have many of our farmers appreciating the fertilisers as their crop yields more than what farmers have traditionally gotten,” said Kirui.

Aron Omanga, a farmer from Kisii lauded the initiative by the firm targeting smallholder farmers like him saying that more needs to be done in order to make agriculture beneficial to farmers who have invested a lot of their resources to be successful.

Yara East Africa Kenya Country Manager William Ng’eno said to increase yields, the firm looks at soils and develops fertilisers suited to specific crops in the regions.

“We have seen an increase in rice production to 300kg an acre and maize up to 15 bags per acre with a lower cost of fertiliser. This is the knowledge we bring to the farmers,” Ng’eno said.

He said the company partners with counties and distributors to ensure this knowledge gets down to the farmers.

Yara Commercial Director Vitalis Wafula said they have developed a mobile phone-based weather application specifically targeting smallholder farmers in various parts of the country.

“The Yara Farm weather application provides information about weather patterns in a given region for a period of up to four months with 80 per cent accuracy to enable farmers to plan on how to carry out their farming activities successfully,” said Wafula.

The Head of Digital Farming at Yara Fred Nyambare said that they had several digital solutions for farmers in the pipeline but farmers had ranked accurate weather prediction as to their first priority in ensuring that they carry out their activities well.

Nyambare said that they were targeting smallholder farmers since most large scale farmers had already embraced technology to enable them to increase their productivity and those small scale farmers also need to follow suit.

“We have lined up several digital solutions with the intention of empowering our farmers to be successful economically we are starting up with the digital weather solutions with the others coming up soon,” said Nyambare.

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