Sore jaws and surprises in Kenya

By Chris McCullough, FarmWeek, Northern Ireland

I was delighted to be chosen as the sole UK and Ireland journalist among the 15 worldwide participants on the IFAJ/Agriterra Exposure 4 Development tour in Kenya. Although I have visited other African countries before I did not expect to be greeted with such passion about agriculture displayed by the Kenyans.

Farmers in Kenya do not have very much to work with in terms of land but they sure are learning on how to make the most of what they have. I was particularly struck with the common bond all the farmers shared, no matter in which enterprise, to do well. The farmers have a huge hunger to learn new practices, new technologies and new management skills. Although Kenya is still decades behind Western style farming I was encouraged when one of the farmers told me, “don’t slow down because we are catching up on you!”

Some of the group visits really opened our eyes to how a developing country deals with everyday farming, such as the visit to Kiserian livestock market and slaughterhouse. It wasn’t for the faint hearted. Each of the group expected the shock, but none of us expected the forward thinking of the directors in producing biogas from the slaughterhouse waste. Ingenious for a developing country but they do need to stop smoking around the collection tanks!

Also the entrepreneurship skills displayed by the Kenyan farmers were very encouraging for a visitor from a developed country. Most of the farmers displayed great skill in knowing how to fully utilise any marketing potential for their products and how to increase incomes by cutting out middle men. Europe take note!

We sure fitted in a great deal of visits into the tour with early starts and late nights but it all was thoroughly enjoyable. The group gelled very well indeed and knew how to relax and laugh when the time was spared. We battled fatigue, broken down buses and sore jaws from laughing, but all members made this their own experience not to forget. I have a great deal of information and photos to translate into readable features.

Huge thanks must go to IFAJ and Agriterra for allowing me to be one of the guinea pigs on such a venture. Thanks also must go to Jose van Gelder and Rien Geuze from Agriterra who put a great deal of effort into arranging everything for the group.

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