Sally Jemo: My Life as a PlantVillage Field Officer

Posted on May 13, 2022

While still in college, Sally Jemo's dream was to be the best agriculturalist there has ever been. Her mind converted every piece of land she came across into a productive machine.

She is now 24 and out of Moi University where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Extention With Education. She has already put her foot down and more than 100 farmers in Kimilili Sub-County, Bungoma County in Kenya look up to her service.

Sally, who hails from Vihiga County in western Kenya, joined PlantVillage in 2021 as an extension officer just after her graduation. She was deployed to Kimilili to work with the farmers who majorly depend on their small pieces of land to spin their lives. Her mission was to turn those small pieces into productive machines.

Sally Jemo graduated from Moi University with a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Extension with Education [Photo-PlantVillage]

What does Sally's work involve?

Sally and other extension officers deployed in sub-counties across 11 counties provide the crucial bond required between the organization and farmers and act as ambassadors or field marshals who link up with small-holder farmers found in villages.

These are farmers who depend on their small pieces of land for food and income. Their main objective is to reach out to these farmers who lack sufficient resources and expertise and teach them modern methods of agriculture as well as help them form teams that strive towards defined goals.

Since she joined PlantVillage, Sally has interacted with more than 1,000 such farmers across Bungoma County with the help of her colleagues. This is accomplished largely through a network of lead farmers stationed throughout the county, whom they visit on a daily basis, attend their group meetings, and communicate with them via phone calls.

Sally enthusiastically greets farmer Jenipher Kadima in Lumuli Village, Kimilili Sub-County. [Photo-PlantVillage]

Together they have ensured constant food supply in homesteads as well as provided a means of keeping children in school through teaching the farmers skills in agribusiness. 

She counts 600 homesteads benefiting from the work of the extension services department.

"Away from the field, I do a lot of research to enable me to serve the farmer better by using resources provided by the internet. For example, I did a research on the use of bio chemicals, that is, urine from rabbits and pepper, and discovered that it is a more economical and profitable means of reducing pests and diseases in crops and also in soil nutrient preservation in farms. This has added to the knowledge and skills I acquired in college," she explains.

What does Sally's day at work look like?

On normal weekdays, Sally, who also takes care of her baby girl, Stefflon-don, wakes up at around 6:30 AM. 

She quickly prepares breakfast as well as baby food. She says she loves tea with waffles because they are easy to prepare and give her sufficient energy for the day.

She then cleans her one-bedroom house, gives food to Stefflon, and gets ready for work. 

The clock will be ticking at 9.00 AM by the time she exits her rented compound in Kimilili town.

How does she attend to the farmer?

Sally visits an average of three farmers on a normal working day. She spends her time at a farmer’s home checking on their agricultural projects, such as cassava, which PlantVillage rolled out as a measure towards eradicating hunger. She surveys the crops using the AI-powered PlantVillage Nuru app and advises the farmer accordingly. 

Sally Jemo helps farmer Jenipher Kadima from Lumuli Village, Kimilili Sub-County, scan for cassava diseases using the PlantVillage Nuru app. [Photo-PlantVillage]

After that, she may join another group of farmers having a meeting to teach and train them on some farming skills, as well as answer their questions and give them learning materials such as brochures.

While in the field, she also checks farmers' phones to ensure the technology installed is working properly; guides farmers on how to join the SMS platform; collects lead farmers’ activity data; helps with seed selection for farmers; participates in research studies; and maps fields with the ODK app, among many other things.

How does her department coordinate with others?

The work of Sally as an extension officer is, of course, a success contributed by others too, such as the media team, which ensures she gets a good supply of brochures and other materials for farmer learning. 

Agroforestry officers also help in identifying needs with farmers and give the information to her team. The weather forecast team helps her predict weather conditions and gives advice to farmers accordingly.

How challenging is her day at work?

Despite the fun of meeting happy farmers, Sally says she is not spared from a few challenges. First, she has to deal with harsh weather in the form of extreme sunshine or sometimes heavy rain. 

The poor road network in the area can cause her motorcycle to get stuck on the way and force her to trek the rest of the way.

Secondly, some farmers fail to cooperate, and some may even want to be bribed to serve them. Apart from that, her work may run beyond normal working hours and render her day very tiresome.

Besides all that, she has to endure the stress of being away from her kid for the whole day.

What makes her smile amidst all these challenges?

Sally finds her work very fulfilling because it is what she has always wanted. 

"My little baby Stefflon-Don also motivates me to work hard because I feel she is looking up to me always. Again, I am proud to be working for such a great organization. Who wouldn't want to make a good thing better?" She says. 

Sally Jemo holding her baby girl Stefflon-don [Photo-PlantVillage]

Sally has also been able to learn some basic communication skills required while approaching farmers to minimise the chances of them refusing to cooperate, such as greeting them in their local language. 

During her leisure, Sally loves spending the weekend at her house going through her weekly achievements and checking up on her investments and other opportunities. 

"It is during the weekend that I also do shopping. It is also time to give full attention to Stefflon-Don," she concludes.

- Written by Sam Oduor

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