The importance and value of record and information management has been neglected by most smallholder farmers in Kenya. Most smallholder farmers rarely keep farm records and in most cases those who keep farm records do not use it to monitor their farm activities.
Sokopepeintroduced Farm Records Management Information System-FARMIS-Kenyain Meru County in April 2014 to address this challenge. Since its introduction, about 4,000 farmers in five sub-counties in Meru namely: Buuri, Central Imenti, North Imenti, South Imenti and Tigania West are applying the FARMIS-Kenya innovation.
FARMIS Kenya is a farm management and diagnostic tool based on the use of farm records aimed at identifying productivity trends, profitability of different farm enterprises and producing evidence for use in decision making at the farm, County and National levels.
Joyce Muhindi from South Imenti narrated how she used to plant without keeping any record. At the end of each season she would harvest and sell her produce without knowing whether she had made a profit or loss.
“I never had any documentation about how my farm was performing. Each season I would just buy farm inputs and cater for other farm expenses but I never knew how much I used to spend on farm expenses,” said Joyce.
Last year when FARMIS-Kenya was launched in Meru she was visited by a Production Information Agent (PIA) who encouraged her to join FARMIS-Kenya. After a thirty minutes training on importance of farm records and the many benefits she would enjoy she decided to join FARMIS-Kenya.
Since then she has now realized what she used to miss out on. She is now able to keep up to date farm records. She said through FARMIS-Kenya she is now able to capture her farm?s profile and record her Irish potatoes, bananas and maize enterprises.
“I wish FARMIS-Kenya would have been introduced a bit earlier. I have now embraced agri-business. Each season I can now capture cost of tilling, inputs, labour, harvesting and post harvest operations,” said an excited Joyce.
On her part, Lucy Gatobu from Kainginyo, North Imenti, noted that the trainings that she has been receiving from PIAs has really helped her as she is now better informed on record keeping.
“Every week a PIA officer usually comes to my farm to check how my farm is and to assist me in filling the farm book. I am now able to fill the farm book and give it to the PIA to digitize it without any problem. I am also able to tell which crop is doing well,” said Lucy.
Similarly, Joseph Munyua from Central Imenti noted that the fact that FARMIS-Kenya has focused on Irish potatoes, bananas and maize value chain has enabled many farmers in the area to enjoy the various benefits offered.
Joseph said that he is now able to capture records and truly practice farming as a business. He has ensured that he is keeping up to date records of his maize and bananas. He is now planning to use his progress report for possible linkages to partners or stakeholders.
In order to ensure that farmers continue to enjoy the benefits of FARMIS-Kenya, Martin Murangiri, FARMIS-Kenya Recruitment and Training Officer has ensured that Meru County has thirty two (32) PIAs who train farmers on record keeping as well as recruit more farmers.
“We are trying to ensure that farmers improve their economic gains and increase profits. It is clear that effective record keeping and information management is key to the running of a successful agri-business,” said Murangiri.
FARMIS enables farmers to: Generate on-demand customized reports on the status of their enterprises, produce seasonal profit and loss statements, project the income potential of their farming enterprises, access input and other service providers, develop a farm activity calendar and link with peer farmers for aggregating produce to sell in bulk.
Record keeping is an essential tool to any farmer. In the present day farm management is becoming more and more business oriented. In order to become a successful farmer in the modern days, one needs to be a good producer as well as a good financial manager. This can only be achieved when a farmer keeps good and accurate records.