Sawa Pius | February 13, 2012
Joan Kimokoti has become a household name in much of western Kenya. She is well-known as a successful mushroom farmer. And the source of her popularity is a program on a local FM radio station called Radio Mambo.
Ms. Kimokoti and other farmers in the South Kabras region of western Kenya were introduced to mushroom farming in 2005, through the Kenya Agricultural Productivity Project. They started growing mushrooms as a farmers’ group.
Shortly afterwards, Ms. Kimokoti started growing mushrooms on her own. She was soon making huge profits by selling to the airport and nearby hospitals. With her earnings, she became the proud owner of one hectare of land, a poultry project, and a goat’s milk project. She is also starting other small businesses. But it was Ms. Kimokoti’s interview on Radio Mambo that motivated other farmers to start growing mushrooms.
In 2008, Ms. Kimokoti travelled to Kenya’s capital Nairobi to attend a training workshop. There, she met a journalist from Radio Mambo who had come to cover the training. The journalist introduced her to one of his managers. She says, “The manager, Abel Amala, came and during our talk, I told him that I was a farmer growing mushrooms.”
The manager asked his staff to interview Ms. Kimokoti about her farming business. The team visited her at her farm. She says, “Two days later the story was aired, and my phone number was given to the listeners.”
Ms. Kimokoti started receiving calls from farmers in various districts. The word spread widely. She was frequently interviewed on radio, talking about mushroom farming and its benefits. She explains, “Most farmers call wanting to know how to grow mushrooms. Some have visited me, and I have visited others, done demonstrations with them and planted with them.”
Farmers in the region often sell mushrooms to hospitals, where they are used to boost the immune system of people living with HIV and AIDS. According to Ms. Kimokoti, farmers can harvest mushrooms three times a year. This brings in 250,000 Kenyan shillings, or around three thousand US dollars.
Ms. Kimokoti has assisted 15 farmers in her area. She has also helped seven farmers’ groups in neighbouring districts. She ensures that each farmer has his or her own mushroom garden. In all, she has helped more than 300 farmers. This is all a result of her radio interview.
Ms. Kimokoti says radio is a good tool to promote farming: “From the time I was interviewed,” she says “I received a lot of calls from farmers. When I asked them where they got my contact, they say from radio.”