With the current dry spell not letting up, Mr. Erick Kimunguyi (pictured) is a worried man when he thinks of the farmer. Still he found time to talk to BL magazine’s George Marenyaabout his work at Agrochemical Association of Kenya
Running a sector based umbrella organization like the Agrochemical Association of Kenya ( AAK) comes with challenges which always leave your hands full. But this has not stopped Mr. Erick Kimunguyi, the Chief Executive Officer from always exploring ways in which to add value to the services offered to the end user; the farmer. In any case, it is until the farmer is happy that the whole value chain can expect to be sustained and remain in future business.
“You may visit a farmer with the intention to talk about pesticides only to find that his most pressing problem at the time is a sick animal,” he says, adding, “In such a case, you cannot shut him down and insist on talking about chemicals.”
That may explain why he is planning to facilitate small scale farmers outsource some services like spraying their crops and animals. In any case, with just a few animals or a small acreage, it may not make sense to invest in a knapsack sprayer and the protective gear necessary for this exercise.
When this activity is outsourced to a committed team of providers though, eachperson will always be assured of work. This besides relieving the farmers and freeing their time will also create work for others.
Another key area of concern is the dissemination of knowledge to the agro-dealer. This is all the more critical since the dealer is the focal point for farmers in a wide area.
“Dealers must be the unofficial extension officers in giving the right knowledge to the farmer. They are in the frontline in preventing misuse of pesticides. They also do positive public relations when malicious people out there spread malicious propaganda about certain products,” Mr. Kimunguyi says.
Encouraging members to arrange exhibitions is another way in which the most current trends and information can reach the end user. Therefore, partnerships with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), county governments, agricultural shows or company arranged field days become very important avenues of interaction.
Mr.Kimunguyi knows that the global challenge of continuously feeding the world’s billions will take concerted efforts of all the players. This is more so in areas where we depend on rainfed agriculture like Kenya.
“The fact that it has not rained means farmers have not yet planted. In turn, dealers are stuck with inputs since there is no demand yet.” He also encourages the government to continue enhancing its subsidized fertilizer programme and make sure that it reaches the deserving farmers.
The small scale farmer is still at the fore front in driving food security. “The big farmer hasthe capacity to sell directly to millers. The small farmer grows for himself then sells the excess to his next door neighbour.”
In fact, the vegetables ( kale , cabbages, tomatoes etcetera) that we consume in Nairobi are sustained by the small scale farmer in Kinungi or Mwea for that matter.
This is why the small scale farmer deserves a voice at the high table. Where he cannot reach this high table, as is often the case, the rest of the society, including the media must mediate for him.
The other area which is of immediate concern is the safe disposal of the containers used for various chemicals. Once used by the farmer, they wreak havoc to the environment including water sources unless safely disposed of.
Safe collection points have been created throughout the county to make it easy for farmers to deposit cans, bottles or even sachets after use. Usually, they are taught to rinse the container three times with water before handing it over.
Working with relevant bodies like Parliament, National Environment Management Agency (NEMA), Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) amongst others, AAK has consistently striven to ensure that all the laws enacted (which have an impact on the sector) do not harm farmers.
Mr. Kimunguyi has previously worked in senior positions at various companies within the agricultural sector.