Agronomy is about providing solutions not products

Agronomy is about providing solutions not products

Meet Timothy Munywoki, a multi-skilled agronomist with vast knowledge and hands on experience in all areas of crop production, pest and disease control, safe use of pesticides, seed care, post-harvest handling of grains and horticultural crops. Timothy is a Senior Agronomist (Technical and Product Development) at Amiran Kenya. That is however not what fulfils his soul; he says that meeting with farmers, providing solutions for them and seeing how happy they are gives him the most satisfaction.

He started out as an intern at REA Vipingo Plantations Limited (Dwa Estate) in 2013. In 2014 he started teaching agriculture in high school and later joined a farm where he was a supervisor in production department. It is while was working there that he heard that Amiran was hiring. He applied and was employed for the regulatory position as registration assistant in 2015.

He was doing a good job and in 2016, he was elevated to Amiran shop as a technical agronomist to offer advisory services to farmers visiting the shop. Timothy would advise farmers on how to improve their yields, offer solutions on pests and nutrition among others. They would leave happy and come back singing praises. This is where he started shinning. Timothy recalls of a farmer who visited him and wanted to do onions. The farmer had a special order to supply in schools and they needed huge bulbs. Munywoki designed a program which made it possible for the farmer to have bulbs each weighing more than 700g.

He started visiting farmers on Fridays and Saturdays which gave him exposure and he got to travel throughout the country. This way he could see the results of his solutions first hand in the fields. This added to his confidence because there was actual proof that his solutions were working.

He started compiling the information on the various solutions he was giving to the farmers. Before long, he had loads of data about different crops, problems farmers were facing and the solutions he was giving.

It soon became apparent that if you needed information about anything, talk to Timothy. This earned him the nickname ‘professor’. Even his bosses saw this and tasked him to create a knowledge centre which was mandated to have all farming information to benefit agronomists and farmers.

Having created the knowledge center, he was elevated to a position of product development and marketing. He would provide knowledge, brochures and posters to sales agronomists. He would also create marketing and penetration strategies for new products. At this position he worked with Large Scale Cereal Farmers to solve some of the challenges they faced like controlling the Fall Army Worms. Through research and consultation from Croplife International he tailor-made the Amiran effective solution for the control of Fall Army Worms.

He was also training agronomists at agribusiness unit on new Amiran products and refresher on products they deemed necessary. The trainings were not limited to agronomists but also to large scale farmers. He was also tasked with creating radio and T.V. campaigns. Most significantly he is the face on Shamba shape-up on Citizen T.V., and he is sought severally by media to discuss on Farming technologies. At Amiran, he is being tapped for yet another crucial role of a Crop protection products manager – Agribusiness Unit.

He has had some memorable wins along the way. He recalls a time a farmer had a fusarium wilt problem with his tomatoes. The farmer was very frustrated when he came to him seeking help.

Timothy realized that there was little to be done because the disease had progressed too far. He thus proposed a remedy to help the tomato plants persevere the disease, stop further spread and at least save production.

The solution worked so well and the farmer got more produce than was expected, given the damage that had already been done by the disease. This success gave him a lot of fulfilment and his bosses noticed his efforts.

Another solution he is currently working on is a mango project. He noticed in Makueni county, the high season for mangoes is between December and February when bumper harvest is experienced. This means that prices are at their lowest.

His solution is thus to help farmers have mango fruit production in the low season when production is low but prices are high. The project is in Kikumini in Emali. The solution calls for pruning the mango tree and spraying flowering hormone. This is followed by basal application of a controlled release fertilizer like Agromaster, irrigation and weekly sprays of Multi K to boost and spike flowering.

This ensures the mango tree develops flowers during off-season and thus can develop fruits. The challenge he has faced is extreme heat which causes the flowers to be aborted as well as thrips attacking the tree. For this he has introduced Superboron which helps the flowers stick and avoids abortion. Irrigation helps with the extreme heat. On thrips, he recommends Rapid a new product with field proven efficacy against thrips.

He is in talks with KARLO to conduct a pilot phase with the agricultural research organization so that the practice can be adopted into the government’s training curriculum.

Amiran has introduced Madaraka Project which aims at loaning farm inputs to farmers groups and recover money once the farmers sell their produce. This helps farmers who are unable to purchase inputs but have the diligence and determination on their farms. Timothy was involved in the designing of the growing protocol which will ensure Canola farmers under this scheme double their yields.

The pilot project is being conducted in Nakuru, Mau-Narok and Molo where the beneficiary farmers have planted Canola. Canola seeds are used to produce oil used for cooking. One farmer is expected to harvest more than 1.4 tonnes per acre using Amiran’s inputs and practices. He would otherwise get 800 kgs on his own without Amiran’s inputs.

Amiran is working with Microsoft to have a platform where farmers send text messages and get an automated reply on all farming solutions. Timothy has been busy working on its contents. The first pilot project will be rolled out for Potato farmers in Nakuru, Molo and Timboroa.

His vision and passion is influencing policy and being a change agent.  He is particularly worried about the emergence of ‘experts’ who mislead farmers and cause them loses.

He proposes a government body to regulate agronomists and create a database of licensed practioners. He intends to bridge the gap between government and the private sector to enhance collaboration and the sharing of knowledge and best practices.

They are introducing new products namely Maximus, Rapid, Metacop and Nominee. Maximus is a pre and early post-emergence maize herbicide with a wide window of application. Maximus controls both grasses and broadleaved weeds. Rapid is a fast-acting broad spectrum insecticide against caterpillars and sucking pests. Metacop is a broad spectrum fungicide that has both preventive and curative properties against bacterial and fungal infections. They are also launching rice herbicide in January 2020.

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