By Kimuri Mwangi
Muranga County is strengthening extension services contrary to the trend in many counties. Extension services have been declining not only in Kenya but in the whole of Africa as extension officers retire. Many governments don’t employ often in order to reduce the wage bill so there are no replacements leading to a shortage of personnel.
But Murang’a County has employed extension officers giving hope to farmers as their services are valuable and come at no cost. In an exclusive interview with Kilimo News, The CEC in charge of Agriculture, Livestock & Fisheries Albert Mwaniki says they have taken extension very seriously both in crops and livestock.
“Over the last five or so years we have employed over 120 new staff. We started by employing animal health assistants to take charge of our Artificial Insemination Service. We noted that the private service providers who are doing a good job were inflating costs, which was hurting the farmers. So we had to come in and take charge,” says Mwaniki.
They first brought in 70 animal health assistants who started offering AI services and also treating animals. Agricultural Extension Officers were brought on board and deployed to the wards to deal with crop issues. Veterinary Surgeons and Officers were also employed to take care of animal health.
“The farmer is on the bottom of the pyramid and as agriculture is devolved, we must focus on the farmer down there. When the farmer has a problem, he relies on a government officer to have the problem solved. If a farmer identifies a disease in the farm, whether in crops or livestock, he/she might not tell which disease it is or the remedy. If the animal which the farmer relies on by selling milk is sick, the earning stops and the same case with their crops. Therefore by doing this, we are taking care of our farmers so that they can prosper,” says the CEC.
Employment in many Counties was stopped as they complain of having a bloated workforce, so what is different in Murang’a? “I can’t speak on behalf of other counties but I think it is a matter of prioritization. You need to prioritize which is your area of focus. In Murang’a, over 80 per cent of our farmers rely on the farm one way or another. Whether cattle, chicken, fruits, vegetables or cash crops. So we must support our farmers and we have to give priority to them. In Murang’a we have prioritized agriculture,” says Mwaniki.
The CEC who is also the Chairman of the Agriculture CECs Caucus has called on other Counties to take the cue and see whether they can try and absorb people who are trained and skilled in the agriculture sector saying they are many outside there. He adds that there are other counties that have also done a lot and have also employed agriculture officers. They are currently collecting data to know what each county has done and this will be announced through the Council of Governors.
Agriculture CS Peter Munya has also called on other Counties to emulate Murang’a and strengthen their extension services saying they are vital for the success of the sector.