Dream Team Blog 2: The Border County

Posted on November 12, 2019


In the South of Mt. Elgon, Teso plains offer sandy loam soils where most of the tuber crops do very well. The Iteso tribe is one of the plain Nilotic groups that adopted farming rather than pastoralism. Cassava is the main crop found in this area.  It is a source of food to almost every home and a cash crop for some of the farmers. They even have crisps and baking flour made from cassava. The Iteso people are so welcoming and most of them are eager to hear from new people who come to their place. 

 It is every morning’s trend to see students and farmers on bicycles headed to their day’s business. Almost everyone in this region knows how to ride a bike. Most of the farmers get into their farms very early in the morning and they are done by noon to avoid the hot sun that is experienced in the afternoons. The average temperature in this area is 22⁰C, at times it gets up to 28⁰C. The evenings are often rainy. Teso is in Busia County in Kenya that borders Uganda to the West, this makes it a busy place as there are all kinds of import and export business happening in this place. One other fact about this place is that you won’t go a day without seeing a sand- ferrying lorry past the street near your house, sand is harvested in every river in this place. We moved to Busia County in early August to work with PlantVillage, we still remember that first Iteso greetings, meeting the rest of the team and making new colleagues. We were happy to start our new life away from our home places. Doing Agricultural extension work has always been an enjoyable task and the use of artificial intelligence in diagnoses of diseases makes it even more exciting. Our day is always full of enthusiasm, working towards bringing change to the members of the communities in this area. Every day is a different experience. Every morning we enjoy our “bodaboda” (motorcycle) ride to work except for once that it turned nasty for us. The rider was trying to take us through a muddy road from the previous night’s downpour, we ended up falling in a trench by the roadside. The next time we came across such a road we chose to walk instead, unfortunately,

Mercyline slid into a pool of muddy water, we laughed all day long about the ordeal. One day we chose to take a bicycle with us to the fieldwork and it was so much fun that we were able to reach 53 crop fields. We took turns riding the bike all day to various crop fields until the afternoon that James rode back home.

It always makes us happy seeing the hunger of agricultural knowledge in the farmers we visit. Despite that we majorly concentrate on the main crops in this area; Cassava and Maize, the farmers still enquire more about other crops such as kales, tomatoes, Sweet potatoes and in one case a farmer wanted us to diagnose a medicinal shrub planted in her homestead. We always try to give our best of our knowledge to those who ask for advice about other crops. It’s to our happiness to see that we have taught some of the farmers who don’t have the slightest know-how about crop diseases. Such farmers are left with excitement to do anything and see to it that they have attained clean crops, free from pests and diseases. However, in some cases, we come across farmers who have a lot of knowledge about agronomy and crop management, who have had wide experience on the farm. We once met an 84-year-old farmer who has been practicing farming since the colonial period and he was so happy to see young people being involved in agriculture, a sector that most of the young people in Kenya don’t envy so much.

The County at the border has given and is still offering us new experiences in agriculture, improving production and raising the livelihoods of the Iteso community and the whole country at large.

By; James Mugo and Mercyline Tsuma.

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