In Kenya, a Practical Training Centre (PTC) for the estimated 1.5 million horticultural farmers has been launched in Thika. The PTC is a brainchild of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and Fresh Produce Exporters Associations of Kenya in a private public partnership. It’s also one of a kind horticultural training center within East and Central Africa.
Speaking at the launch, KARI Chairman Professor Onesmus Ole Moiyoi said PTC was modeled after Brazil’s agriculture, where there is integration between research, universities and private sector with strong commitment to value addition. PTC is co-funded by USAID and Dutch Government through grants of $950,000 and one million Euros respectively with KARI donating the 200 hectares of land.
Richard Collins, FPEAK’s chairman lauded PTC as the real positive change in Kenyan horticulture. The centre was launched to address constraints existing in Kenyan horticulture like high post-harvest losses, poor infrastructure, inadequate credit, vague markets, strict export standards and low levels of value addition among the country’s small holder farmers.
According to FPEAK’s CEO Dr Stephen Mbithi, PTC will showcase best practices as should be in a normal farm in a realistic Kenyan environment but meeting international export standards. Farmers will also be trained on key aspects of the whole horticultural value chain. These include production, tending, value addition and marketing. The centre has fruits, vegetables and flower units and demonstration plots for conducting agricultural trials and trainings.
“Farmers will be exposed to the practical way of successfully growing all types of horticultural produce,” said Dr Stephen Mbithi FPEAK’s CEO. They will be taught in classes of 20 students. PTC also has a 52 bed accommodation facility to cater for their boarding when being trained over a time period. There is also a conference facility that can host up to 250 delegates.
Since inception in 2010, the centre has grown from 8 to 100 member staff and developed a horticulture curriculum incorporating pictorial tutorial for illiterate horticultural farmers. The farms since 2012 have been self financing with their proceeds paying salaries to those tending them.
To ensure farmers who read Swahili are factored, PTC with authority from Global GAP has translated the Good Agricultural Practices for them to understand. Dr Mbithi lauded the translation saying, it will ensure more Small Holder Farmers in rural areas will be better placed to grow produce to match GAP export standards leading to them marketing their produce abroad.
PTC will work with institutions of higher learning like the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) to review and improve the horticultural curriculum. A further 1.6 million Euros has been given out by the Dutch Government to facilitate this higher education cooperation. The Dutch will also fund the construction of a potato training centre to be supported by the Dutch Potato Industry.
While launching the PTC, Kenya’s Agricultural Permanent Secretary Dr Romano Kiome appreciated the partners who have contributed to the development of PTC. He noted the growth of horticulture in Kenya has grown in the last 10 to be the number one sub sector contributor to the economy. PTC will help build the livelihoods of our people,” said Kiome.
By James Karuga