Fields of Dreams: Maize Production Doubled
Agnes Moraa is an Agricultural Journalist & ACDI/VOCA Volunteer, but her handshake tells you that she is also a farmer. While her palms are calloused from breaking earth, a quiet strength can be seen in her eyes when she speaks about the crops on her small scale maize farm near Nyansiongo, in Western Kenya. “Maize is my favorite crop, because it gives me food,” says Agnes. “But I also like tea, because it brings good money,” adds the farmer, who also grows bananas, avocadoes, beans, and finger millet on her farm.
Agnes is part of a new breed of farmers in Kenya. She and others like her have been taught successful farming techniques as part of the USAID-funded Kenya Maize Development Program (KMDP). “Farming has changed for me,” she acknowledges. “Before I had KMDP training, I farmed the way I always had. It was the only way I knew how. I would plant leftover seed and put three or four of them in every hole. I knew nothing about fertilizer, insecticide or herbicide. But now I have learned the value of good crop inputs. Because of KMDP training I am so happy to have a very fine crop.”
Her yield for a ¾-acre field of maize has increased from just one bag to five bags, and she is cautiously optimistic that she may see ten bags generated from that same plot of land this year. A 20-bag granary provides her with the option to store her crop until the better post-harvest prices hit - a type of business planning that is encouraged by KMDP.
Income on the rise
With her annual farm income steadily rising from Kshs 20,000 (approximately $266) to an expected Kshs 40,000, Agnes is beginning to plan for the future. If things continue to improve, she would like to someday build a large house that will be a gathering place for her children and the grandchildren she hopes to have. Agnes is a tall, strong woman, but her maize crop towers over her and she is visibly pleased with its performance. She points out her favorite varieties and explains the value of good seed, with its resistance to diseases like maize streak, and its reliable, uniform results.
Farm work is done with simple hand tools
On her 3-acre farm and an additional 1 ½- acres she leases, Agnes works the land with simple hand tools. She uses a metal file to keep these tools sharp. Agnes is completely in charge of the farming operation — her husband, Gwaro, teaches at a primary school in town. The couple has six children, ages 14 to 30. Agnes, who has farmed in this area for nearly 30 years, hires as many as five workers to assist her during busy times of the year.
Harvest is time for celebration
In her spare time Agnes enjoys monitoring her crops, weeding, and picking tea leaves. Her favorite time of the year is during the harvest when she throws a celebratory party for family and friends after the crop is brought in. She is very active in and sings at her local church, a Catholic parish called Masige with about 50 members in the congregation. She believes in tithing, and always shares of her harvest with her church family. Looking down the road, Agnes can’t help but smile as she surveys the land she loves. She expects to continue farming for many years and says her life is peaceful and happy. And one day, when she retires, what will she do then? “Ah,” Agnes whispers, as she fingers the luminescent rosary around her neck, “when that day comes...I will do the work of the church.”
Nyansiongo farmers have received invaluable education on fertilizers, insecticides use, herbicides use and the value of good crop inputs, their yields have increased and most of them are implementing business plans for improved marketing they have learnt from KMDP trainings. They have also managed to maximize outputs while using simple and affordable inputs.