NDSU Extension agronomist provides sunflower training in Kenya
Hans Kandel, NDSU Extension Service agronomist, recently returned from Kenya where he helped more than 165 farm leaders develop technical skills in sunflower production.
“For the most part, farming in the Mtito-Andei region is done by hand, with only a few farmers having access to oxen,” Kandel says. “Line planting, proper distribution of plants and the use of compost are fairly new concepts for producers.” Most of the sunflowers are intercropped with a low-growing crop called green gram.
Kandel says there is a lot of eagerness among farmers to learn about sunflower production, and the training was very timely because the seasonal rains started at the end of the training sessions.
Kandel went to Kenya at the request of Philip Mailu Kativanga, chair of the Mtito-Andei Community Development Organization. “It is one of Kativanga’s strategies to train farm leaders in the fundamentals of sunflower oil seed production because unreliable rains have caused the corn crop to fail for three straight years,” Kandel says. “Sunflowers and sorghum are being introduced because they are more drought-tolerant crops.”
North Dakota is the largest sunflower-producing state, so it was not a surprise that the request for assistance came to NDSU, says Kandel. He was chosen to represent NDSU Extension because of his expertise in sunflower production, adult education and previous work experience in Africa.
The Mtito-Andei Community Development Organization represents 278 groups spread across 271 villages in Kenya’s Eastern Province.
The U.S. Agency for International Development helped Kandel make the trip possible.