Technical support is a critical ingredient to the transformation of agriculture. However, a major decline in the provision of extension services has been taking place over the last two decades in Kenya. In an effort to support the transformation of agriculture into agribusiness, students of the University of Nairobi were engaged as Junior Extension Officers in a project supported by Equity Group Foundation, a subsidiary of Equity Bank Group. The three-year project targeted 2000 medium-sized farms in 10 out of 47 counties in Kenya. The project had a wide range of objectives which included increasing production and yield through quality input usage; improving soil health management and good agricultural practices; enhancing access to markets; reducing farming costs through more efficient farm operation practices and improved technologies, reduce risks through crop diversification and irrigation, and to improve agribusiness management skills by offering training and use of business decision-making tools. Students were selected through an open process and taken through a structured induction process that combined technical and soft skills. The students were then deployed to provide technical support to the host farmers as well as three more farmers in the neighborhood. Technical backstopping was provided by experienced extension officers attached to the project. A gradual and steady increase in agricultural productivity was recorded in all the farms that were covered under this project. For instance, one farmer who was harvesting 33, 90-kg bags at the commencement of the project had stepped up production to 63 bags per hectare in three years. The farmers gained the courage to adopt new technologies and invest in new enterprises. Some of the farms have become centers of excellence that are positively impacting their neighborhoods. The students gained invaluable hands-on skills along with a wide range of agricultural value chains.
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RUFORUM Working document series
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