By CATHERINE RIUNGU
January 14, 2019, Nairobi. More than 100,000 farmers have participated in the annual National Farmers Awards Scheme since the competition was launched in 2013. This year, the judges leafed through thousands of applications from all counties to select 25 winners in eight categories, a rigorous exercise considering the high quality of agribusinesses seeking what has become a coveted trophy.
The Ministry of Agriculture, in partnership with Elgon Kenya introduced the scheme in 2013 to reward, motivate and appreciate hardworking farmers who have shed conventional farm practices to embrace commercial farming. The scheme was born out of the desire by Elgon Kenya to encourage farmers as a contribution to food security and job creation, has naturally fit into President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big4 Agenda, Pillar 4. It was for this reason Elgon Kenya was again feted this year by the President in recognition of its support for the awards.
A walk down memory lane to see how winners have fared since carrying their trophies home reveals a story to be proud of. Not only have their farms evolved into ‘training centres’, they are often the point of reference whenever their neighbours are looking for practical inspiration. Last year we heard the story of a young farmer who followed in the footsteps of a winner and made a resolve he too must win. And he did. Two winners of the Women in Agriculture category have gone ahead of the pack, to see their farms picked by their county governments as models of excellence.
They have attracted visitors from across the world. The training sessions have become transformative in growing food from a point of information at a time when traditional information sources including extension officers have become scarce.
That some selected winners – mostly the special categories of youth, physically challenged and women get their trophies from the President during the Nairobi Show, shaking the Head of State hand has grown into a major factor as farmers put in extra effort, to grab the Presidential Handshake. A winner who was among the first to greet President Kenyatta has since acquired the moniker of the President’s Farmer in his village.
It is such heartwarming stories that give us the inspiration to carry on with this competition despite its getting tougher year on as judges face the herculean task of picking a best farmer among stars. We can confidently say that most farmers who participate in the awards are by all means agriprenuers.
It was for this reason that a decision was arrived at to introduce a specific category for the flower sector. Those familiar with this sector will agree with us the industry is a sophistication of technology, employing the best and latest globally. It therefore became increasing impossible for farmers in this segment to compete with other full commercial entities. Since the beginning they have been winning all the trophies!
Although lessening the competition to make room for the others didn’t make things any easier going by feedback from the bench. The farms are so competitive, settling on the best among the best has been one of the most difficult verdicts yet in this scheme.
We take this opportunity to congratulate all our 2018 winners and look forward to seeing them at the gala dinner early next year when they will be picking their certificates and trophies.
As we prepare for this, we would like to add our voice to the cry of the industry especially the VAT on agro inputs that stakeholders are lobbying the government to reconsider waving to reduce cost of production. Farming is already burdened by many challenges key among these climate change and emergence of new pests and diseases requiring a rethink into policy decisions that worsen the burden.
The award scheme has rubberstamped the gains derived from public private partnerships. Working with both national and county governments, the initiative has not only managed to reach farmers even in hinterlands, but congregated key sector players under one roof to keep the pulse on the industry while discussing sustainable interventions.
Elgon Kenya is particularly grateful to the private sector players, BASF, Bayer East Africa, Arystal, UPL, Excel Crop Care, FMC and Seeds of Gold for sharing in the dream and philosophy of recognizing our farmers and walking with us in the journey to transform our farms into bountiful harvests, sources of household incomes and oiling our country’s economic growth and prosperity. The dream of a hunger free Kenya can only be realized by rededicating our attention and focus to those who have taken it upon themselves to return dignity to the soils one crop at a time.