Thursday, 15 May 2014

The misconception of farmers in rural Kenya: My experience

I still can’t get over the fact that a few weeks back, mum stopped me from buying her the farm inputs from the agri-shop. Even though she had broken her hand and being her last baby, I ought to do more than just shopping favours for this wonderful woman in my life, she insisted that all I would do is accompany her, pay and carry what she bought. I would not go there on my own! I was o.k. with paying her bills and carrying stuff. But I was very mad with her inability to believe that I could actually buy these inputs by myself. Being the good daughter I am, I humbly asked for the reason behind this, only to discover the shocker facing most young and ‘modern’ looking farmers. 

Mum told me point blank ‘Makuona magukwenderia goro tondu ndui. Nduhuana kurima . (If they see you buying those inputs, they will sell to you at a higher price because you don’t know the prices. You don’t look like a farmer)’.It has made me think over these days how many young people face this challenge: The misconception of who is a farmer. It’s not just looking like a farmer, it’s also about the extortion that comes with looking a bit modern- and not like the ‘ideal farmer’.

Firstly, being young and educated in small towns like mine is not associated with liking or even having  knowledge of farming. Buying farm inputs implies to the agri-shop dealers that my parents have either sent me and I have no knowledge of what I am buying, for what purpose, and at what price.
Secondly, the extortion that mum talked about, I presume is based on the fact that I outwardly look too modern to be buying farm inputs! It’s the perception that we still hold that the face of a farmer, is that of a dusty, poor, not well dressed and with ‘just a farmer’ kind of attitude. If I turn up at the agri-shop with my kinky-and-coloured hair, my green jeggings, my red skinny top, a classy handbag, and sunglasses on me, I definitely do not qualify to be a farmer. It’s worse if I mention the inputs I want with a ‘foreign’ ascent (i.e. pronouncing their English names correctly, without adding the usual Kikuyu ascent to their names).
I want to demystify these half-truths. The fact that I can happily accompany my mum to the agri-shops shows the much interest, and investment I am making into her and my farming. (Oh! I should have told you that I am now a farmer!). I am a village girl, and that can never change. Whether I turn up at the agri-shops with a Woolsworth collection or an apron does not change the fact that I like being that village girl who is always eager to eat fresh food from her mum’s farm. It also does not change the fact that over the years, I have accumulated a lot of knowledge on agriculture - having grown up on a farm, and myself working in agricultural projects- and now carrying out research in the same field. 
Further, being modern means also I have knowledge of more modern methods of farming. I know about the best products mum should buy for her farm, what salt lick is best for her dairy cattle, what onion seeds will give us the best returns and so forth. 
I am modern for the right reasons. 
I am modern and therefore I can translate this into modern agricultural methods. I am modern and therefore can look out for farm inputs that will help me reduce my farm expenditure while increasing my returns. That’s what modern should be translated to. I am modern and therefore will understand bes the need to buy my inputs in wholesale so that I get better deals. I am modern, and therefore my aspirations are not limited to how I outwardly look like. 
Yet, mum, and others in my small town cannot see this in me. It’s indeed a long journey to becoming a credible young farmer!


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