I had the privilege of working as the Corteva food security fellow based in Eldoret in Western Kenya for the last six months. The objective of this fellowship is to contribute to achieving food security and enabling small scale farmers to become productive and profitable in crop and livestock productions. Below are some of the highlights of my six month journey into this beautiful African country.
I worked very closely with the AMPATH team and travelled extensively in Western Kenya, listening to the farmers, and addressing their most pressing agriculture-related issues through training on best agronomic and pest management practices.
One of the core activities was to organize small scale farmers into cooperatives, so that training and other services can be provided to them more efficiently. We recently initiated a business opportunity to strengthen these co-ops by helping them establish agriculture retail stores (Agrovets) so that they can generate revenue, become financially stable, and sustain themselves in the future. Some of the co-ops are in the process of getting their licenses to operate as retailers to serve their communities.
Another vital activity focused on the management of fall armyworm, the invasive and voracious pest of corn that is rampant in Kenya. Our training was focused on the biology of this pest and how to manage it using cultural, physical, biological, and chemical control methods. When discussing chemical control for this pest, we also discussed the importance of safe pesticide handling and use of personal protective equipment to minimize unnecessary exposure to pesticides.
Soybean adoption is very low in Kenya, despite it being both an affordable source of protein for animal feed and human consumption. This was viewed as an opportunity to work with the famer networks to discuss adoption and the benefits of growing this crop. At this stage, we are working on identifying vendors for high yielding and locally adapted soybean varieties and soybean buyers, while continuing to engage farmers and create awareness.
The key to the Corteva and AMPATH effort was collaborations, such as one with the Center for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI). Through a collaborative effort, we worked together to train the youth on pest management and safe handling of pesticides. We also created a network of input and service providers that can directly engage co-ops to provide their products and services to ensure farmers obtain quality products and access to finance and other services.
As I reflect upon my experiences in Kenya, I have been touched by some of the friendliest people I have met. Everyone I have worked with at AMPATH, and farmers I interacted with were very hospitable. I enjoyed my visits and discussions with farmers, leaning about their farm operations and working with them to become more informed and productive. The learning was mutual as this has been a practical and meaningful experience that positively shaped my life.
Growing up in Ethiopia, I am familiar with the challenges small-scale farmers face and have been waiting for an opportunity to do my part. This fellowship enabled me to achieve my goal to contribute albeit in small way toward the greater goal of food security in Africa. I am grateful for Corteva for such an excellent opportunity. A big thank you to my colleagues at AMPATH, Kenya Corteva team, my coworkers in Johnston, IA, and Corteva food security fellowship steering team for their support.