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Good news gives farmers high yields

Agriculture ministry’s Chief Administrative Secretary Anne Nyaga opens Siakago Miraa Market Shed, in Embu county, on 16 February 2021. Farmers in Mbeere part of the county have planted miraa as an additional crop to increase their income.
Agriculture ministry’s Chief Administrative Secretary Anne Nyaga opens Siakago Miraa Market Shed, in Embu county, on 16 February 2021. Farmers in Mbeere area have planted miraa as an additional crop to increase their income.

Positive and uplifting stories could improve farmers’ lives and harvest. Happy and inspirational information gives farmers optimism. A recent study found happy and inspired farmers used more inputs and invested more leading to increased productivity.

Researchers reviewed studies from 14 low and middle income countries in Asia and Africa. The researchers were from International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), an international non-profit organisation that undertakes scientific research for development.

Researchers Dr Ravi Nandi and Dr Swamikannu Nedumaran say aspirations aren’t merely expectations of a future. “They can drive proactive actions in the present to improve the future,” they say.

Farmers’ optimism influences their short and medium term decision, they say.  The optimism greatly encourages farmers to use technology and inputs in their farms.

“When the poor fail to see a better tomorrow in which their well-being would be much higher than it is today, they do not take action to improve their future,” the researchers say. “[They] become even more stuck in a poverty trap.”

The study says aspirations or hopes shape economic behaviour as well as political and community engagement. Aspirations or hopes might significantly affect agricultural productivity, livelihoods and rural welfare, the study says.

How to raise farmers’ aspirations

The researchers say new ways could create aspirations and a positive behaviour.

Such ways are showing rural farmers success stories, role models, documentaries, street theatre and puppet shows.

The study cites a study done in Ethiopia to look into the link between poverty and aspirations among farmers. The study found that even when returns were high rural farmers repeatedly did not invest.

In this study, the authors tested whether experimental design could change aspirations and futuristic attitudes.

Results showed that changes in hopes or optimism brought a positive behaviour.

The experiment involved showing a one-hour documentary in which four people with backgrounds similar to the audience’s, tell the story of how they improved their economic status.

People who watched the documentary improved their aspirations. But people who didn’t watch the documentary didn’t change their hopes or optimism.

Aspirations of rural youth on agriculture

Another study the researchers reviewed was Who Wants to Farm? Youth Aspirations, Opportunities and Rising Food Prices by Jennifer Leavy and Naomi Hossain.

The study sought to understand who wants to farm and under what conditions.

Only in Ethiopia and Indonesia young people were optimistic having a career in farming. Researchers carried out the study in 2014 in 10 countries, including Kenya.

The researchers say this could be because of the Ethiopian government’s efforts to support farming among young people. In addition, the government has invested in more agricultural production.

Leavy and Hossain studied young farmers in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Bangladesh, Guatemala, Zambia, Bolivia, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam.

About Kaburu Mugambi

Kaburu Mugambi is a veteran of business reporting having worked with two national newspapers in Kenya. He is a graduate of economics from Kenyatta University. He started his journalism career in 2000 with The People Daily as a business reporter before becoming a business sub-editor. He joined Daily Nation in 2004 as a business writer. He holds a post-graduate diploma in mass communication from University of Nairobi's School of Journalism and an MBA in marketing from the same university. In 2016, he founded Water Tower, a media firm focused on water, energy and climate. Its content cuts across water, energy and climate with emphasis on adaptation and sustainability.

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