We Can All Make a Difference
I, however, never imagined that I would be working with farmers across Africa. Ever since I joined the Smallholder initiative project, I have thought of how I got myself into working with smallholder farmers. Maybe it was meant to be, at least it seems, when I consider my personal story. I grew up in a family of 4 boys. My dad used to work for the Kenya Railways and my mum was with the Ministry of Agriculture – she still works there. In African culture, it was normal to involve children in house chores including activities related to garden farming – a city version of smallholder farming. Being the first born child in the family, I was involved in almost everything my parents decided to include the children in.
In primary school, I was the chairman of the 4K Club in Kenya (this is an agricultural club for primary school children interested in Agriculture). I was 12 years old then. Having been elected (rather proposed) to be chairman of that club, I wondered how I found myself there. I didn’t like Agriculture at the time and had never imagined a future career in farming. It wasn’t fancy. Additionally, not many parents encouraged their children to pursue Agricultural degrees at that time. Yet there I was, leading a group of students interested in pursuing a career in agriculture. We participated in competitions at the annual agricultural shows to demonstrate our agricultural skills, mainly crop production.
At home, I was somehow involved in Agriculture and enjoyed it without knowing. My mother was an Agricultural Extension Officer. I loved her extension worker uniform. She also had a Motorcycle from the Ministry of Agriculture – a Yamaha DT 125. I remember it very well. I loved that motorbike, and insisted on helping my mum take it into the house every day when she came back from work. After the motorbike was in the house, I helped my mother store the products she was using to train farmers in the field and keep them away from my younger brothers. That is when I first came across the Bayer cross. I never really tried to find out more about Bayer. This is true for many Kenyans.
We are familiar with Bayer crop protection products but we don’t know about the other business the company is in, well except maybe for one…I think, probably the most popular Bayer brand in Kenya by far has to be Aspirin. All my friends in my age group had all their parents “singing songs” about Aspirin. Back to my personal story, I saw the way my mum got her hands dirty doing manual work in her farm and I wasn’t interested one bit in following on her footsteps.
Flash forward 22 years and here I am working with smallholder farmers across four countries in Africa and traveling the world trying to find solutions for the issues that smallholder farmers across the continent face – including my mother. She now, sometimes, asks for my advice – best feeling ever! Over the Christmas holiday I enjoyed spending time with her on small farms talking about how to improve the crops’ yield.
We Can All Make a Difference
Working with rural communities and the farmers is a fulfilling career path that I would like to continue. Before I joined Bayer, I gained valuable experience working with rural communities focusing on development initiatives with donor funded projects which provided a good foundation for my current role. Although, I mostly focused on health, many the community development activities – including improvement of smallholder farmers’ livelihoods – are intertwined. For example, if smallholder farmers improve and they find good markets for their produce, they will have enough money to afford a good school for their children’s education and also be able to afford quality healthcare.
Despite being trained as a public health officer, I have come to realize that within Bayer and with the support of our valuable partners, the smallholder farmers four country pilots in 2017 improved their livelihood. This has been made possible with the support of many organizations and Bayer colleagues around the world. We have a great team with very good expertise on the different areas which we bring together to support the smallholder initiative. All of us want one thing – successful smallholder farmers. And I believe we will be successful.
I am happy that my work is supporting farmers to produce more and better quality crops to address some of the Sustainable Development goals. Africa needs a lot of investment in smallholder farmers and I am glad that Bayer is contributing to drive this initiative. In the end, I look forward to seeing sustainable solutions, empowered farmers and a better life for family farmers. We all need to play our part: governments, associations, private industry need to be part of the countries’ development plans.
I never thought I was going to be working in agriculture, or that I would enjoy it so much. The journey towards sustainable smallholder farming needs to start with an individual. I’m happy to be one among many supporting smallholder farmers in Africa. Together with my Bayer colleagues we look forward to bring advice to farming families, farmer groups and associations; and together make a difference in the communities we touch. The challenges are many but we are facing them together, that is why I’m confident about the future. We can all make a difference.