Highlight 2005: New farmer magazine in Kenya
Biovision funds the farmer magazine “The Organic Farmer” in Kenya. The magazine, published officially by ICIPE in Nairobi, was started by Peter Baumgartner, former Africa correspondent of the Tages-Anzeiger in Zurich. The magazine has been enthusiastically received, as Peter reports.
”I congratulate Biovision for supporting the “Organic Farmer“ newspaper” writes Joseph Kiruthi Kinyanjui from Kinangop in Kenya. “It is a lively gazette which is useful to the Kenyan farmers”. Kinyanjui’s letter is one of the dozens of such letters which we received after the paper was launched. More than 200 farmers have contacted the newspaper through their local farmer groups, while others have even communicated via email. The response to the first edition of The Organic Farmer newspaper in Kenya which is being financed by Biovision has been overwhelming. We could easily increase the monthly newspaper circulation from 10.000 to 14.000 copies.
In comparison to other Farmer newspapers in Zimbabwe, South Africa or in Europe, The Organic Farmer is rather a small publication with just eight pages for the time being. The paper is very informative, full of concrete advise and tips and is very easy to read. The paper is distributed free of charge. For the farmers in the rural areas, this is very important. The postage they spend in sending letters to us costs as much as a kilogram of maize meal used to make Ugali, which is one of the staple dishes in Kenya. A kilogram of maize meal could feed a small family for a few days.
However, the huge response we have received from the farmers explains why the newspaper is so important. The Kenyan farmers are lacking information on general agriculture and especially information on organic, sustainable farming methods. The big daily national newspapers focus on the cities and the three specialized newspapers for farmers are merely an accumulation of advertisements for agro-business-companies which also offer the supply information for their commodities.
The Organic Farmer takes a new path
We consider the newspaper like a monthly portion of a manual which has been made easy to comprehend. In the newest edition, we have used illustrations to demonstrate how organic compost can be produced using precise tips.
We have also provided suggestions on where to buy seeds. We have recommended the sowing of molasses grass in order to keep the ticks away. We have also provided farmers with steps which can help them organise themselves so as to directly access the markets thus leaving out the scrupulous middle men. We have a lot of material to offer the farmers and the knowledge we provide is packed in a simple and understandable manner. This is exactly what is lacking in Kenya.
Access to relevant information by farmers is not easy and is in fact a logistic nightmare. For example, we have about 900 postal addresses which belong to farmer groups. Each of the farmer group is made up of about 25 members. Each group receives five copies of The Organic Farmer newspaper in the post whereby the paper is circulated among them for reading! Joseph Kinyanjui writes that in his rural community, at least 20 farmers in his group have read the copy of the Organic Farmer, some with the help of their children who can read better. Apart from our own distribution, a considerable number of copies is delivered by courier to Caritas Nyeri and the development offices of the Catholic diocese who attend to more than 1.000 farmer groups. The copies are then further distributed. In addition, we also send half a dozen teachers directly to the important and popular market places where they also help with the distribution.
The day the second edition went to the press for printing, Stanley Kuura from Meru diocese, in the area of around Mount Kenya, telephoned our office and sounded somehow irritated. “When will the next Organic Farmer appear? The farmers come here everyday asking for the next edition!”. That is indeed not a bad sign.