Do researchers in agriculture know what farmers want? That is the question that a leading agriculturalist in the country wants us to think and act on if we are to improve the sector.
Dr. Moses Siambi who is the Regional Director of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Nairobi has challenged agriculturalists to come up with technologies that directly meet the needs of farmers.
In a key note speech he delivered yesterday at the opening of the 9th Egerton University International Conference at Njoro Nakuru County, Dr. Siambi said the technologies should enable farmers gain income from their farming.
“If they are not making money, why will they invest in agriculture?” he asked.
“Researchers need to work towards satisfying the needs of the farmer, especially the small holder farmer,” he said.
While agriculture is usually identified as the backbone of Kenya’s economy, the sector is always faced with a myriad of challenges making it difficult to achieve its potential. Lack of incentives and unreliable weather conditions are among those challenges.
“The cost of transporting fertilizer in Kenya is more than the real price of the commodity from the manufacturers,” he pointed out.
Dr. Siambi said farmers need highly productive crops and livestock, low input production systems and high prices for their produce.
He also said that what the farmers want are reliable markets and access to credit for both input and produce.
With the start of the long rains, the planting season is expected to kick off. It is in this season that most farmers plant crops such as maize, and most of the other crops that determine the status of food security in the country.
Although Dr. Siambi acknowledged that researchers may have an idea of what farmers want in the country he challenged them to do more.
“I think we know what the farmer wants. We have developed many technologies about agriculture.”
“As scientists we have a role in influencing the decisions of the farmers,” he added.
The conference whose theme is ‘Innovative Research and Technology for Global Development’ will end on Friday. Its participants are drawn from the Africa and Western Europe.