Dr Donald Njarui on the 8th of November 2018 presented a seminar on the Village Knowledge Centre (VKC), one of the innovative extension and advisory services tested in the InnovAfrica project. The presentation was made to 17 senior managers and scientists at KALRO Headquarters in Nairobi. Dr Njarui gave a brief overview of the InnovAfrica project, its objectives and activities, followed by a detailed presentation on the VKCs and VKC activities carried out in Kangundo, Kenya since its establishment in May 2018.
The VKC is an ICT-based platform that links farmers through phones and different online platforms such as social media for faster and timely sharing of information and knowledge to farmers on agricultural technologies. .
VKCs promote knowledge transfer through a bottom-up approach to equip the rural community to make informed decisions quicker and more effectively. They are a unique approach in the rural context because they acknowledge the importance of timely dissemination of knowledge that ensures that farmers can get the knowledge faster than traditional methods. VKCs are a revolution to the village context as they ensure connectivity and timely transfer of information to farmers.
How did the concept of the VKC begin? The idea was conceptualized in India by M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in 1980. Since then, the foundation has set up several VKCs across India with positive feedback from the farmers. As with all good innovations, they attract innovators from different continents.
Two scientists implementing the InnovAfrica project in Kenya and Tanzania were trained on the logistics and operational dynamics of a VKC at MSSRF in Chennai, India. Using the knowledge gained from the training, they set up the first VKC at an InnovAfrica project site. In Kenya, Kangundo village was selected as the first pilot site for establishing the VKC.
Kangundo was chosen because of its structural advantages as a local community in Eastern Kenya, one of the areas that has adopted Brachiaria grass in large numbers with an additional high number of dairy farmers. Kangundo is centrally located, with a good road network which places it at a strategic advantage. The VKC is housed in the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) building near the sub-county headquarters, beside the deputy county commissioner’s office, which would attract farmers likely to spot it while visiting the HQ going about other official business. The VKCs have the potential to bridge the gender gap as its targeted audience is women and the youth – there is a noted increase of youth getting into dairy farming.
Since the establishment of the VKC in May 2018 in Kangundo, 307 farmers have visited the facility to get information: Brachiaria grass, poultry farming, and other topics.
On 24th September 2018 Dr Njarui gave a similar seminar to 25 scientists at the KALRO centre based at Katumani.