Matilda Sakwa, the CEO of National Youth Service (NYS), speaks about how farmers can benefit from the State institution.
NYS has vast agricultural land and other resources like demo farms and trainers, can it help the country to be food secure?
Yes, if well-supported financially, NYS can assist the country to be food secure. We have enough well-trained manpower but our undoing is a limited budget.
However, we have presented a proposal to the National Treasury to give us seed capital so that we can make use of our idle land in all the 22 field stations across the country and increase the number of experts in the agriculture docket like vets and agriculturalists.
Our Yatta station is more than 1,700 acres and is capable of producing food that can feed the entire Nairobi County.
We’re producing basmati rice in Mbalambala station in Garissa County, but what we need is water and modern irrigation kits. We need money to improve our mechanisation by having more tractors and other equipment as well as reduce post-harvest losses.
On matters agricultural training, what do you teach your graduates?
We have Yatta School of Agriculture where we teach them general agronomy that includes animal husbandry, crop production, and irrigation as well as information and communication technology (ICT) courses to help them practice modern agriculture.
We also teach them marketing skills and how to do value addition to earn more money. We teach them entrepreneur skills so that they can be self-employed.
Can the public access your institutions for agricultural knowledge?
Yes, our units like the one in Mbalambala in Garissa and Lambwe in Homa Bay were mainly created to help farmers learn the best practices. Farmers can come and see what NYS is doing so that they can replicate and spread the knowledge on their farms.
In Yatta Complex, we have the Yatta canal which benefits a lot of farmers downstream. NYS graduates also go out and assist the community.
What plans do you have to make NYS an agricultural powerhouse?
We have a strategy that is helping us use more land that was lying idle. We’re no longer relying on traditional maize farming but have now embraced irrigation. We also want to diversify into fruit farming and value addition.
We’re doing fish farming and plan to increase our pedigree cows and expand our poultry and rabbit ventures. Our target is to make NYS a model farm where modern agricultural practices can be learnt.
The government was working on a project to make NYS a large potato seeds producer, how is this going on?
The project is on track as we now produce clean planting materials which many local and international farmers use. We will soon start to propagate the seeds we produce at Tumaini NYS at our Turbo station because it has a bigger land – 300 acres. This will help us to meet demand in the North Rift and Western.
Last year, the NYS governing council recommended that the Tumaini Field Station in Nyandarua be turned into a Technical and Vocational Agricultural Training Institute. Has this been done?
This is still work in progress because we must do infrastructural development by improving our learning facilities like classes, and laboratories and have a steady supply of learning materials and teaching staff.
We plan to partner with Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) to assist us to boost such institutes and open more across the country.