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Meet YPARD mentee: Esther Ndichu

By Elcah BarasaIt has been often said that an apple does not fall far away from the tree and this seems to hold true for Esther Ndichu. Her grandparents were farmers, her parents are farmers and she is one too - an apple does not fall far from the tree indeed.With both grandparents and parents being farmers, one would have been forgiven for concluding that she would follow in their footsteps. She did and has taken up farming like a fish would do in water. This is attributed to farming she experienced fast hand from her parents growing up and the training she received at the university – she took a degree course in horticulture at the Egerton University.Growing up, Esther had dreams and ambitions just like any other kid. She wanted to be a nurse, a lawyer, a news anchor but it did not occur to her that she would be a professional farmer. Farming is something she thought is done by people who’ve exhausted all other options and could only be learnt through apprenticeship.However, things took a different turn for her when she finished her secondary school education. She performed well enough to join university but not good enough to clinch her dream course at the university. She was two points shy of qualifying for law degree course – her dream course. She had to choose a different course. After consulting relatives and friends, she discovered she could study and become a professional farmer. Contrary to her previous belief that farming could only be learnt through apprenticeship. She chose to study horticulture at the Egerton University.It is while at the university that her passion for farming was invigorated. Having seen challenges faced by farmers, she decided that she had to do something. She decided she wanted to be a farmer and do it differently for others to learn from her. The African farmer has been starved of technology jeopardizing his or her ability to deal with challenges bedeviling them. Esther therefore believes embracing technology and doing away inefficient traditional ways of doing things will improve farming in a big way. She says it may not be that magic bullet that will solve all the problems but she’s certain most of the problems can be addressed through adoption of relevant technologies. She wants to be part of that revolution, a revolution that will see the use of technology for greater benefits for farmers.Position:Agricultural consultantCountry:KenyaEducation:Horticulture, Egerton UniversityMentor:Nicholas Korir, lecturer and researcher at Kenyatta UniversityEsther is now using her education and experience gained during her internship at a flower farm to drive her own farming enterprise. She cultivates tomatoes and unlike other farmers using traditional rudimentary methods, she does it technologically. To beat challenges brought about by pests and diseases on the vulnerable tomatoes, Esther grows her tomatoes in a greenhouse structure. Technology has yielded some of the best quality tomato varieties – tomatoes with long shelf life, short maturity period, bigger fruits and even shape. Esther employs technology and adopts some of the best innovations to advance her farming goals such as creating employment for the youths and addressing food security.Esther belongs to the “kulima ni Ujuzi” and “Mkulima Young” groups – groups that advance the interests of young farmers and youth unemployment. Through the groups, she has taken it up upon herself to train and advise young Kenyan youths venturing in agriculture. She provides expertise solution to agricultural problems to young budding farmers. Having theoretical knowledge from the university, Esther has become a young agricultural consultant in her community from whom all farmers both young and old seek help.From the upcoming YPARD mentoring program, Esther hopes to advance her agricultural practical information through her interactions with fellow mentees and mentors. She believes that YPARD will provide a platform for not only exchanging ideas and knowledge that she has in agriculture but will also help her get ideas from other agricultural professionals across the world. Specifically, she would like to be guided on how to develop her skills across the entire tomato value chain. That is, from planting, crop maintenance, crop protection, fertilization, nutrition to harvesting. She believes the only way for tomato farmers to success is by effectively engaging in all the value chain activities. Just like her parents, she is a farmer but farming differently.Elcah Barasa is an International Relations student at the Technical University of Kenya. She keeps indigenous chicken and as a blogger, she emerged the best female blogger in YoBloco Awards by CTA in 2014." Follow her at @Elcah_barasa and https://elcah.wordpress.com/