Mr David Ochieng’, a seasoned middle-aged farmer, from Aboke village of Ugenya sub county in Siaya, says he is not just a farmer but a believer in change, adapting to the evolving needs of his community through the practice of farming.

Edible Oil Crop Farming in Ugenya

Over the past years, Ochieng has been at the forefront in agriculture trying out different crops in different seasons, navigating a transformative journey that intertwines the wisdom of traditional farming with the innovative approach of cultivating sunflowers alongside other crops.

As he stands in his sunflower farm in the scorching midday sun next to a beautiful huge sunflower blooming bright yellow flower, he shares insights gained from a decade-long commitment to this agricultural practice.

“It wasn’t an easy ride from where I began,” he admits, his eyes reflecting the wisdom acquired over decades of tending the earth. “We were accustomed to traditional farming methods which I also practiced, but climate change forced us to reconsider our approach” he said, and launched into his narrative of his journey into sunflower farming, a path not without challenges.

“Learning about new sunflower varieties and adjusting planting patterns was a hurdle, however my interest and passion in sunflower farming kept me going, but the biggest challenge was to find good seeds and the proper knowledge to tend them to fruition.

“These simple-to-grow beauties are perfect for everyone, from beginners and kids to experienced gardeners. The hardest part of growing sunflowers is deciding which one to grow” Mr Ochieng confessed.

He also describes the initial challenge he faced being lack of knowledge from fellow farmers, saying that many people thought sunflower farming was a departure from what they know as crops that do well in these regions, “But I believed it could be a solution to our problems”, he said, emphasising the importance of community education in navigating this transformation path.

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On the other hand, sunflower seeds and fertilizers were not a problem for him since KALRO had taken him through a formal training in the edible oils farming and value addition, and introduced him to several seed producers with high quality seeds and fertilisers.

Mr Ochieng’ lights up as he speaks about the impact sunflower can make and has made in his life.

“It’s a game- changer”, he declared, the pride evident in his voice, “before, we were at the mercy of unpredictable weather, now with the sunflowers blooming huge flowers and given that it thrives under the same conditions with crops like maize do but with higher yields and reliability, I feel more in control of my farming destiny,” he said.

He also highlighted the symbiotic relationship between sunflower and other crops, pointing out the resilience his field has gained in the face of unpredictable weather patterns. “Botanically speaking, the sunflower family includes annual types that live for a single season and perennials that come back year after year”.

Beyond the practical benefits, Ochieng’ emphasised the sense of community that sunflower farming has fostered, “We share knowledge, seeds and experiences, it’s not just about farms, it’s about ensuring Siaya County thrives in this new venture,” he remarked.

For Ochieng’, the decision to embrace sunflower farming was not solely driven by necessity but rooted in a profound sense of responsibility of trying out something new.

“I saw the impact of climate change on our once-predictable seasons. Something had to change, not just for me, but for the generation that will inherit this land,” he said.

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He spoke passionately about the interconnectedness of the community, emphasising how sunflower planting can be made a unifying force.

He sells his produce locally once the oil is extracted for Sh 340 per liter as well as the by-products such as sunflower cake which is used as animal feed.

The success of Ochieng’s 4-acre farm has inspired other farmers within his locality to also take up edible oil crop farming, which has given him a new role as a trainer to budding farmers teaching and training them on the best farming practices of sunflower crops.

“We face challenges together -whether it’s adapting to a new crop rotation or sharing resources. Sunflower farming has given us a common purpose, a shared vision for a sustainable future,” Mr. Ochieng’ remarked.

“It’s not just about farming; it’s about living in harmony with the land. Growing sunflowers has inspired me profoundly, from securing my livelihood to installing a sense of purpose. I feel like I’ll always be planting seeds for a better tomorrow,” he concluded.

Article by: Terry Okumu

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