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Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Agriculture reality show launched in Kenya

By Bob Aston
The creators of Kenya’s first makeover television series Shamba Shape Up have introduced the first agriculture reality TV show in East Africa. Robert Godec, the United States Ambassador to Kenya launched Don’t Lose the Plot (DLTP) TV show at PAWA 254 in Nairobi, Kenya on May 2, 2017.
The show features four young farmers from Kenya and Tanzania who battle it out for an agricultural investment worth USD 10,000. The show sets out to change the perception of farming among Kenyan and Tanzanian youth as a “cool” and viable career venture.
Don't Lose the Plot presenters.Photo/DLTP
Speaking during the launch, Ambassador Godec said that agriculture presents a real opportunity for youth employment and development. He said that the show would help to change the negative perception that agriculture is only for old people.
“Agriculture presents a real business opportunity for youth in Kenya. Such kind of investment will help spur innovation and give rise to a new generation of agripreneurs,” said Ambassador Godec.
He thanked the Don’t Lose the Plot producers and partners for the inspiring show and their resolve in improving the image of agriculture.
He said that youth involvement in agriculture would reduce rural-urban migration. He said that there is a lot of money available in agriculture and it is worth investing in.
Patricia Gichinga, a Producer at Mediae Company and Co-Director of DLTP said that they selected the four contestants from a pool of 200 applicants. The four chose their own crops. They had to pitch a budget of their expenses to the judges before getting funding for farm inputs.
She said that they want to educate youth on the myriad opportunities at their disposal to enter into and to grow agricultural economic activity, and to improve their food production and livelihoods. She said that youth would have an opportunity to learn and emulate the four contestants.
“We cannot build tomorrow agriculture using yesterday's methods. We need to change the profile of farming," said Ms. Gichinga.
She noted that the average age of farmers in Kenya is 61 years hence the need to change youth perception of farming.
The launch also featured presentations from the show’s Producer Mediae Company, Africa Lead and Mercy Corps’ Agrifin Accelerate program.  Two Feed the Future Kenya Innovation Engine (KIE) agribusiness entrepreneurs and a digital financial consultant participated in a panel discussion titled “Youth and Agribusiness: The Future of Food Security in East Africa.” 
The agriculture reality show is set on a rural farm with multiple plots. The four contestants compete against each other while living together on the farm. Each contestant has 9 months to turn an acre piece of land into a successful agribusiness.
The show has a call centre, a budgeting tool and an interactive SMS platform. The platform enables viewers to send questions or request for information on agribusiness.
The youth farmers receive guidance and practical insights from agriculture experts. The support includes financial planning, planting strategies, agricultural inputs and marketing. In the end, the farmer with the most profitable and sustainable farm will win the USD 10,000 prize.
Citizen Television in Kenya aired the first episode of Don’t Lose the Plot on Sunday at 1:30 pm. Subsequent episodes will air on Thursday’s at 1:30 pm in English and Sunday’s at 1:30 pm in Kiswahili. Episodes in Swahili will be airing in Tanzania on ITV on Fridays at 6:30 pm starting on May 5, 2017.
The reality show is supported by Feed the Future, the U.S Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, and USAID Kenya/East Africa Mission through Feed the Future’s continent wide capacity building program, Africa Lead. The support focuses on increasing media content on the agriculture sector and opportunities for youth employment and development.
Mercy Corps AgriFin Accelerate Program also supports the program. The accelerate program provides the contestants with financial management and access to finances.
We wish the best of luck to Kenneth, Leah, Issah and Winrose as they battle it out to win USD 10,000. We hope that more youth will adopt agribusiness after learning from their peers how to turn farming into a profitable business.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

App helps Kenya’s small farmers tackle pests, map crops

By Caroline Wambui
KATHERI, Kenya - Sitting under a cypress tree on his farm to escape the scorching heat, Michael Mwenda is deeply engrossed in his phone.
"I am getting the latest info on diseases attacking French beans," he said. "My neighbours' beans were attacked by a pest and I don't want the same thing to happen to mine."
Farmers in Katheri village in central Kenya - and in many other parts in the country - regularly battle pests that attack their crops, a problem made worse by recurring drought.
Countries with confirmed outbreaks can face import bans on their agricultural products.

Farmer weighing his produce in Meru County, Kenya. TRF/Caroline Wambui
However, a mobile app called Farmforce is helping farmers and exporters access information to contain pest outbreaks, track harvests in real time, and monitor pesticide residues to comply with global food standards.
Developed by the Syngenta Foundation and the Swiss government in 2013 in Kenya and other countries in Africa and Asia, the initiative employs field workers who record information about farmers such as their address, land acreage, the crops grown and pesticide records, among other things.
This enables real-time monitoring of products from cultivation to harvesting "as farmers receive progress reports regularly – telling them for example whether or when to spray pesticides", said Gideon Aliero, an agronomist at Interveg Exports, a company that exports fresh fruit and vegetables and has been using the app for four years.
To receive the information on their phones, farmers need to be registered with a food exporter.
Less Paper, More Money
Faith Kamenchu, project manager at Farmforce, said the app allows farmers, food processors and exporters to cut down on cumbersome paperwork.
"Most smallholder farmers use pen and paper methods to record their activities whereas exporting markets demand a range of highly detailed information on the produce," she said.
"Collecting that information by paper is time-consuming, difficult to aggregate and inconsistent, which makes it hard for farmers to meet global standards and export their produce."
A Farmforce field agent is allocated to a group of farmers depending on their location, and advises them based on the information they receive from the app – for example, on when they should harvest their crops. 
Kamenchu believes this simplifies export companies' management.
"The app informs field staff when farmers' actions might threaten compliance – like overuse of chemicals – and ensures that the agents actually go in the field, as they have to activate their location on their phone when they report."
Fraud used to be a significant problem among field agents, he added. "They would pretend to be on a farmer's field and send inaccurate information, with no way for the export company to detect any lies. But that is no longer an issue, as field officers need to turn the location mode on to access the app on their phone."
So far, the technology counts about 100,000 users – both farmers and exporters – across the country, Kamenchu said. 
However, Gabriel Ayoki, a farming consultant, said the technology's impact may be limited in remote areas where farmers experience frequent power failures and cannot charge their phones to access the app.
Mwenda, who grows maize, tomatoes and beans, says he used to struggle to sell his produce to export companies "as it was of poor quality and often affected by bacterial wilt disease, which I had no information about."
Now that he has been using the app for three years, he manages to harvest more food and of better quality, and makes over 50,000 Kenyan shillings  ($484) in one harvesting season (three months), compared to 20,000 Kenyan shillings ($193.61) previously.   
"My income is now steady, so I can make plans for the future like pay for my children's education," he said.
Article originally published at Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED).