Love for rural folks sends youth to work with farmers
Tabitha Ogutu looks forward to a community that is food secure. Where her community would be empowered economically. That is why, the public relations specialist has been passionate about empowering her community, in her rural home Siaya, especially through agribusiness.
“My daughter has had a passionate for community development since she was a young girl. I have watched her pioneer economic, social empowerment and leadership initiatives in my area and I’m proud of her.
"Most importantly, she has introduced sustainable agribusiness and entrepreneurship projects for women and youth, which has encouraged self-employment.
"I love the fact that Siaya being a place where women shy away from pivotal leadership positions, she has been able to include them in meaningful discussions and exposures that makes the rural woman lead from the family level to the society,” Martin Ogutu, her father narrates.
Lobbying for support
Tabitha grew up in Uranga, a small village in Gem, Siaya county. Her parents love farming. This, as her father narrates, made her love and appreciate the value that the soil brought forth and the issues that farmers face. Her interactions with extension officers made her realise that through knowledge, farmers could be able to do more and increase their agribusiness and entrepreneurship abilities.
This is how she began lobbying for farmers to have sustainable partnerships and assistance from stakeholders that would offer capacity building and material support to increase scales of productions.
Much of the knowledge that she has acquired is through research and practice. She has organised Farmers’ Field days and Youth in Agribusiness and Climate Change conferences in Siaya county to empower young people and women on this field.
Lobbying requires skills to write proposals, pitch them and have meetings to discuss them with the specific organisations and government officials. It also involves having conversations with communities.
“The toughest part is convincing a partner or county government that the particular issue indeed is important and needs to be addressed. Also, finance is a challenge sometimes, but she has managed to develop trust and support from different stakeholders,” he says.
Roping in county leaders
He adds: “One significant thing that I’m proud of is the fact that now farmers have been able to understand what they need to use during different planting seasons due to change in climate and other factors because of the quality training they have received from stakeholders in agribusiness.
"Most importantly, young people have started to embrace agribusiness as an alternative means of employment and they consider it worthwhile. Women in my community consider her as their voice of reason,” her father narrates.
Another challenge she faces is lack of support from some local leaders. “Some leaders at the local level are not development conscious and therefore, when they see her pushing for some of these issues, they feel that she is a threat and as a result, they don’t offer much support. I hope that our leaders look at economic empowerment as a critical aspect of governance and leadership,” says Ogutu
So far, Tabitha is happy that over 500 farmers have been trained on various agricultural value chains and modern farming techniques that are climate smart.
“We have record of their names, locations and agricultural value chains they are engaged in. I also have records of economic empowerment groups, which are the beneficiaries of the projects. It’s always easier to work with structured groups than individuals — with the groups, monitoring is easy,” says Tabitha.
There are over 40 economic groups within Siaya operating under different programmes, which Tabitha has been part of.
“We have training for poultry farmers, livestock farmers and beekeeping farmers. This we have partnered with the County Government of Siaya through it’s implementer Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme.
"We have also partnered with Yara International and Corteva Agriscience and they have trained the farmers on the best modern and climate smart planting methods for maximum output and further supported a few farmers with the inputs, especially vulnerable widows who are needy,” she continues.
With these initiatives, Tabitha feels that the issue of food security, which is still a challenge will be addressed.
“Many households are not food secure and thus can’t take part in agribusiness. One can only sell food when you have surplus. My daughter feels that the government and stakeholders, need to provide subsidies for farming inputs such as fertilizer and moreover, invest in local economies.
"Also, there is a need to rehabilitate our soils and reduce the use of harmful chemicals to boost fertility and incorporate indigenous methods of farming. Climate change being one of the things affecting production, there’s a need to invest in innovation that would support climate smart agriculture,” her father says.
Award and recognition
Tabitha also believes that agriculture being diverse, there’s need for farmers to embrace drought resistant crops such as cassava.
Because of her efforts, last year, she was invited by Corteva Agriscience to partner in a community farmers Field Day and engagements and was awarded for her contribution as the Leading Women in Agribusiness and Entrepreneurship. She also was awarded a scholarship in partnership with Strathmore Business school.
“Getting the scholarship is a dream come true to learn more about the world of businesses. Other recognitions that she has received have been from the County Government of Siaya and Chief Administrative Secretary CAS Agriculture who attended one of the Agriculture youth conferences that she organised in the county,” he says.
These recognitions have given her courage to champion for community resource centres in future where women and youth can access equipment and information they need in doing agricultural production and value additions and also the centres to be hubs for climate change and innovations.
“Since information technology is important in doing businesses, she would want the communities to be able to access computers and Internet to enable them boost their businesses through research. She believes that this will expand their bases and increase job opportunities for the youth,” says her father in ending.