Alumni sets sight on improving lives of Kenya’s rural farmers

Life has always been tough for Kenya’s rural farmers who ply their livestock businesses in the arid to semi-arid lands in the country’s Mwingi East District.  The vagaries of climate change threaten to make this bad situation even worse.

Dr Jim Katu has brought a glimmer of hope for these farming communities. He undertook an Australia Awards Africa Fellowship in Agriculture Livestock Course in 2012. On completing the fellowship, he returned to his post as District Veterinary Officer in the Ministry of Livestock in Mwingi East District, where he set upon utilising his new-found knowledge to assist farmers in this arid and semi-arid areas.

“Climatic change is proving to be a major constraint to agriculture among the Mwingi communities. I have integrated knowledge and skills learned in pasture preservation from the course and successfully trained two community farmer groups of about 25 to 30 members each and six staff members as trainer of trainers on improved pasture cultivation and fodder preservation,” says Dr. Katu.

He further initiated an ongoing community project in perennial pasture establishments as a key drought mitigation strategy for the district that has an estimated total livestock population of about 70,000 cattle and 80,000 goats. Eighty percent of the population is composed of rural dwellers.

Dr. Katu says the highlight of the fellowship was the interactive learning process involving participants from different African countries. “The course proved effective not only in fine tuning country-specific departmental community projects but also created the ideal setting for innovative platforms and professional networks. Such networks will be effective in developing applicable and sustainable mechanisms for small scale farmers to adopt improved farming practices resilient to the impacts of climatic change across Africa,” Dr. Katu adds.

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