Shaping Up a Shamba with SMS alerts
Michael Mwangi, 23
Mixed farming: Vegetables, pigs
I am hopeful that the government will give progressive training to model farmers.
The cost of farm equipment required by small-scale farmers is rising.
iShamba has taught us both a great deal about the effects climate change has on the region; this is something we knew little about.
Michael Mwangi, a 23 year-old business student from Karatina in Kenya, works on his parents’ farm (or “shamba”) to pay for his university fees.
I believe that farming is a good way to make money, however you have to think of your farm as a business and treat it so by looking after your money, and spending money where necessary.
He and his mother are avid watchers of the educational television programme “Shamba Shape Up”. It is a make over style TV show that aims to give both farmers featured and audience members the knowledge they need to improve productivity and income on their farms, by guiding them on exactly where to invest.
Michael and his family have a vegetable patch, and keep 15 pigs and a heifer. They are all too familiar with the challenges farmers on the Shamba Shape Up face.
“The cost of farm equipment required by small scale farmers is rising,” Michael comments. This includes equipment for labour production to fertilizers and agro-feeds for animals. This, in turn, leads to increased costs of production that are passed on to consumers through expensive, unaffordable products. It is difficult to market these products, especially when producers compete with imported products that cost less.
To keep costs down and improve productivity, Michael has joined farmer union, that hires out equipment and provides inputs at a subsidized cost. He has also signed up for the free SMS service “iShamba”, provided by Shamba Shape Up, that gives farmers access to agricultural experts, to ask questions and get advice.
As well as being able to ask questions, subscribers are sent information that is specific to their farm several times a week. “This means that my mother has access experts at the end of her mobile phone when I am away at university, whom she can talk to about our pigs, vegetables and the calf,” Michael says.
“iShamba has taught us both a great deal about the effects climate change has on the region, such as erosion, changing weather patterns, drought and desertification through deforestation,” says Michael. “These are all things we knew little about and are not discussed widely among the farming community or government.”
Michael’s calls to action:
I hope the government and private sector will invest in research and development of better inputs, for increased productivity that will eventually end hunger. This will also show businessmen that the agricultural sector is as fulfilling as any other industrial sector in the economy.
I am hopeful that the government will continue funding savings cooperatives and unions, and giving model farmers progressive training. This knowledge eventually will trickle down to the farmers, leading to better decision making overall, both for the environment we farm and the people who depend on us.
This government should also encourage consumption of local products and rely on food imports less. This will provide a platform to invest in exportation to foreign markets, increasing in revenue for farmers.