At the forefront in war against ‘cereal’ killer

In a region where the youth have apparently shirked farming despite the soaring poverty, Mercy Mwende Onyango stands out as an island. She’s leading the way in embracing technology. And she hopes that her agricultural exploits will not only silence hunger pangs in the community. Click to support:

supportThey will also fuel an appetite among the youth to return back to farms.

Mercy runs a demonstration plot where farmers in Nyangoma, Siaya County in Western Kenya, witness the miracle of the Imazapyr Resistant (IR) technology. This model farm is critical to the livelihoods of tens of families in the area, for it is one of the training venues for members of the Hagonglo, a community based organization (CBO) that benefits 723 households in matters farming and health.

Mercy Mwende Onyango, at her model plot in Nyangoma, Siaya County, Kenya.

Mercy Mwende Onyango, at her model plot in Nyangoma, Siaya County, Kenya.

“They (farmers in the area) can witness technology at work,” she says

Watch video on Farmer Mercy Mwende Onyango MPEG-4

The youthful mother of two got to know about the IR (popularly known as StrigAway or Ua Kayongo) technology during a field day organized by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF). She would later plant the H528 seeds produced by the Kenya Seed Company, one of the four seed producers AATF partners with to make available the technology.

Founded in 2003, the AATF assists small-holder growers fight hunger and poverty through new technologies.

“I got a big yield; very good harvest. I also realized that Striga was gone. And the farm is fertile because we used fertilizer for the first time; never before.”

Mercy Mwende Onyango plating the StrigAway seeds on her demonstration plot under the guidance of AATF’s Field Officer Caleb Adede.

Mercy Mwende Onyango plating the StrigAway seeds on her demonstration plot under the guidance of AATF’s Field Officer Caleb Adede.

Her harvests has improved from 5 bags (450 kgs) to 15 bags (1350 kgs). She has preserved some of last season’s harvest until the price of farm produce improves on the market, which is probably early next year. “My family can now move into the next season without having exhausted the previous harvest. We are food sufficient,” she says.

It is hardly surprising that Mercy’s story is important to Siaya authorities.

While Agriculture provides 61% of all employment, the youths in the area have not been keen about faming. Thus, employment is a key pillar in Siaya County government’s current development strategy. “(There’s need) for more resources to be channeled to employment-driven investments to reduce the burden of dependence and poverty,” states Siaya County Integrated Development Plan 2013-17.

The County Government – buoyed by the noteworthy success of AATF’s Striga Control in Maize Project – plans to allocate funds towards Striga control in the next budget, according to Samwel Ongonga Wambisa, economic adviser for County Governor Cornel Rasanga Amoth.

“Mercy decided to try the new technology and moved very fast to embrace it, and that’s why we picked her farm as a demonstration plot,” says Pamela Ogutu, coordinator Hagonglo CBO. “While her fellow youth find farming hectic, she is moving very fast to clasp the very best technology that gives the ultimate benefit. She isn’t shy about farming. She’s a role model who’s likely to change the mindsets here”

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