Lack of agricultural extension services is one of the many challenges facing Kenyan farmers. Many keep referring to the good old days of 1970s when agricultural extension officers visited farms to train them on right practices.
The absence of these services, coupled with negative attitudes and changed mindset, have pushed many people out of agriculture as most crops failed year after year in the country for reasons that farmers did not know.
This state of affairs is creating business opportunities for entrepreneurs like Bernard Ondung whose Green Zone Agencies (GZA) Company provides extension services with a focus on horticulture.
In an approach of providing the extension services as an investment under the banner of GZA Company, Mr Ondung has established the business which sells green houses, shade nets and open drip irrigation systems to farmer groups in various regions of Nyanza.
The wares are sold to farmers at subsidised prices and thereafter each buyer or group are offered free after sale service until they gain experience in using these agricultural technologies for maximised production.
“We started the company in the year 2004 as a private sector proprietorship to provide agribusiness development services to farmers. Our clients are thus entitled to unlimited extension services at any time,” said Mr Ondung.
He had been operating in Naivasha, but the 2007/8 post-election violence forced the GZA Company to shift its operations to Nyanza having lost property to looters during the mayhem.
“We had never known the extent of trouble that farmers had been going through in Nyanza due to lack of extension services. So far, we have farmers in our programme bagging Sh14,000 per week as a result of our interventions,” said Mr Ondung.
He states that his mission was to change farmers attitude that it was only through using modern technology that they could yield the required results as an investment.
“The attitude among the people of Nyanza had been that agriculture was a sector set aside for the uneducated, GZA was thus established to reverse these trends by commercialising the venture in order to curb poverty among the people of Nyanza,” said Mr Ondung.
The company has reached out to 3600 farmers directly and several others indirectly from Siaya and Kisumu County in its programmes.
Ondung, a graduate of Agricultural Engineering from Egerton University, said that most of his work over time have evolved around agriculture.
He has set up irrigation systems for large corporates like Monsanto Company in Kenya, Rwanda, Congo and South Africa, thus acquiring great experience that would relieve farmers from failure associated with poor agricultural methods and dependency on rain-fed agriculture.
He said a combination of technical aspects of irrigation together with the contemporary agricultural practices would eventually end the biting food insecurity and financial woes faced by the communities living in the area where the company operates.