Elgon Kenya launches information centre to bridge agricultural knowledge gap
Agro input company Elgon Kenya has unveiled a first of its kind information center, meant to address smallholder farmers concerns and questions in their food production pursuit.
This, coming at a time when studies show that information gap is to blame for poor farming techniques and subsequent depressed yields among farmers.
According to research by the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, up to three quarter of Kenyan farmers have reported being stuck to age old farming practices while relying on seeds from the previous harvest for subsequent planting.
Some of the seeds used dates back to the 1930s. Yet Kenya continues to play host to some of the most globally recognized seed companies that have continue to produce groundbreaking innovations including stress tolerant crop varieties, pest control arsenals and technologies that are billed to transform lands and farmer earnings.
The disconnect between this transformative innovations and farmers access, scientists attribute, to lack of proper information channels and crop producers, especially small scale, farming from a point of no information. But the farmers have expressed insatiable appetite for this information, aware that they needed to change their way of doing things if they are to boost farm productivity.
This has been evident in the plant clinics organized by Elgon Kenya where farmers, who have turned up in droves from far and wide have pointed out lack of information as a key hindrance to their effective farming.
“We realized that there were so many aspects of farming that farmers were grappling with. One day of plant clinics sounded like we had just scratched the services. There was so much farmers wanted tackled. So we started toying with an idea of creating an information platform, because we felt we just didn’t want to be in the business of selling produce to farmers, but also ensuring that they understand what they were farming and were farming from a point of information,” said Nelson Maina, the head of communication at Elgon Kenya.
So the information center was born. Located in the company’s headquarters, the hub is equipped with agronomists who addresses farmers concerns, while answering their questions and advising them on the best options in their venture based on the farmers’ descriptions.
“So if a farmer comes to our warehouse to buy say for example a certain seed varieties, we take it upon ourselves to talk to them about their farming venture and offer them agronomic support for free before selling them their inputs. We feel this is very crucial if we are to help our smallholder farmers who form the bulk of food producers, improve yields at a time when the global population is projected to increase, creating demand for food,” added Nelson.
And in a world where information has gone digital, Elgon Kenya has positioned itself to reap from the digital divides.
With Kenya estimated to have an estimated 38 million prepaid mobile users, out of which 27 million are said to have access to internet data a gold mine presents itself. This even as a growing number of young people who owns these devices continue to express growing interest in farming which is equally gravitating towards technology.
“The youth and ICT are inseparable. You have seen even some of the most impressive innovations have been developed by young man. It is a constituency we cannot ignore,” said Nelson.
Elgon has therefore rolled an online information center that allows customers to place their orders. In partnership with courier companies, once the order is placed, customers are able to receive the orders at the convenience of their farms.
The online forum also allows customers to chat anytime with experts who will offer them advice before placing orders. This consultancy is equally free.
“We are living in interesting times and as a company are thrilled by the powerful role of technology in shaping key aspects of our lives. Agriculture has become a major beneficiary of this revolution so we have to position ourselves to see how to tap into technology to assist our farmers,” Nelson added.
The new development also means that farmers can now order for single units, say a single sprinkler or a packet of seeds and have them easily delivered, which was traditionally tough due to logistical constraints.
The information center is another addition to Elgon’s many pursuits of walking with farmers in the food production journey and ensuring the journey is as smooth as possible.