Agriculture is the backbone of the Kenya’s economy and particularly so for the selected counties with most of the farming activities being carried out by Small Holder Farmers (SHFs) with small parcels of land and characterized by lack of cooperation amongst themselves, are heavily exploited by middlemen, have no access to markets and suffer enormous losses through damages and delayed delivery of fresh produce to the market. The products are marketed in raw form and most often are perishable in nature. Small holder farmers incur losses in the farm and at post-harvest through poor handling in the farm, transit and in the store. The farmers lack capacity and facilities to prevent these losses. Typical farmers in the targeted counties of Nyeri, Embu, Tharaka Nithi, Meru, Kirinyaga and Murang’a manage very small plots of land on average 0.25 to 3ha, and production is mainly rain fed. Such farmers experience various challenges posed by nature including poor soils, destructive crop pests and diseases, and recurring droughts and therefore yields generally very low compared to known potentials. Together with natural calamities, additional reasons that lead to low yields include limited investments in irrigation and lack of affordable technologies that would have improved soil fertility, pest and diseases control, weeds management, and the introduction of drought tolerant crop varieties. Small holders farmers still encounter market failures, have had limited access to capital and market infrastructure such as roads, physical market structures, market information and contacts. Failures to develop capital markets and lack of appropriate public infrastructure such as roads, railways, airports and seaports in turn leads to high costs of transportation and credit delivery. As a result, most small-scale farmers are trapped within subsistence agriculture, with minimal orientation towards the market. However, the increasing global consumption of micronutrient-rich meats, fish, fruits, indigenous cereals and vegetables all of which are High Value Agriculture Products (HVAPs) have led to new market opportunities for producers and distributors of high agricultural value products especially to the small holders farmers. Consequently, efforts to encourage the production of high value food products in Kenya may be a strategic move to alleviating poverty in the region. An increasing importance of exported non-traditional agricultural produce reflects Kenya farmers and traders meeting global demands. The contribution of fruits and vegetables in the total value of agricultural export, for example, increased from an average of 7% in early 1980’s to 16% in 2001. This trend suggests that HVAPs could become an even more important sub-sector in the Kenya economy. Additionally, amongst the HVAPs is the African indigenous vegetables and cereals known for their importance in providing nutritious food, both in rural and urban areas. These vegetables play a crucial role in income generation and subsistence. Some of them have been attributed to having medicinal-value properties and are grown for home consumption. They are considered traditional crops, because whereas some of the plants were planted, others were readily available and harvested in their habitat appearing as volunteer crops or weeds. Others had been consumed for countless generations signifying their value and importance in local cultures. The value of indigenous vegetables and cereals is not fully appreciated in Kenya, have not given them priority in crop development and have not featured significantly in the research agendas of international or local organizations that have tended to focus on improved exotic varieties. Local varieties have been replaced by improved or exotic varieties and species. However, producing more exotic food crops by itself is not a panacea to malnutrition problems in Africa. The quality of food and its nutrient content is very crucial. Through greater production and consumption of indigenous vegetables and cereals, we can eliminate malnutrition and promote healthy diets in Kenya.
The market restructuring and supply chain in Kenya will assist small farmers to adopt suitable farm inputs, use improved crop husbandry practices, handle produce properly after harvesting, enhance quality, and maintain the recommended standards and packaging. The project further seeks to link small holders’ farmers to high value markets e.g. supermarkets, open markets and retail shops where they fetch reasonable prices. The project further seeks to manage the risk marked by a single outlet of indigenous vegetables. The farmers need to be well prepared and therefore flexible in supplying other outlets such as wet markets and institutions such as hospitals, schools, and hotels. In this connection, appropriate market infrastructure such as sheds and stalls in wet markets within the country are necessary in enhancing commercial production of indigenous vegetables and cereals. Shortage of such infrastructure significantly contributes to a lowering quality and shelf life of vegetables sold through the wet markets.
Kenya has suffered from transitory and chronic food insecurity, mainly due to drought and floods and an over reliance of maize crop. Exploitation and growing of indigenous cereals and vegetables adaptable to the local environment, will, in the long run improve the food security, nutrition, and health of the people. In Kenya there are more than 210 species of leafy vegetables that are part of traditional diets and have not been fully utilized, thus there is a great potential to be harnessed. Improvement of this sub sector can be a milestone in the fight against poverty in the rural areas.
CEREALS VALUE CHAIN DEVELOPMENT-AGRA SUPPORTED FARMERS’ ORGANIZATIONAL CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT.
GRADIF-Kenya Foundation’s AGRA supported Agriculture and Livelihoods Project for selected Farmers’ Organizations (FOs) Capacity Development under the FOSCA Project focuses on promoting the development of Cereals Value Chains.
Project Title: Enhancing Capacities of Farmer Organizations (ECAFO) in Eastern Kenya in Tharaka Nithi and Embu Counties.
Funded by: The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
Project Duration : 3 Years
Counties Targeted: Tharaka Nithi & Embu
Project Goal and Objectives
Overall project goal is “to increase Small Holder Farmers (SHF)’ incomes and livelihoods through capacity strengthening of Farmer Organizations (FOs) in the targeted project areas/Counties”
- To enhance the institutional and entrepreneurial capacities of targeted FOs
- To strengthen partnerships and linkages among FOs and with relevant Service Providers (SPs) from within and outside the project areas
Project Implementation Strategy
In January 2015, Grassroots Development Initiatives Foundation-Kenya (GRADIF-K) entered into partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to receive financial and technical support for the implement an Agricultural and Livelihoods based Farmers’ Organizations (FOs) Capacity enhancement project in Tharaka Nithi and Embu Counties titled” Enhancing Capacities of Farmer Organizations in Eastern Kenya (ECAFO)”.The Project aims to strengthen the capacities of selected Farmer Organizations (FOS)/groups in Tharaka Nithi and Embu Counties to enable them provide effective and quality services to their members who are mainly Small holder Farmers as well as empower them to effectively participate in Agricultural Value Chain activities.
The Key Value Chains crops to be promotes are: Green Grams, Cowpeas, Pigeon peas and Sorghum.
The Project Strategy is as Follows:
- Project strategy is to work with about 150+ Farmers Organizations (FOs) and Networks within a period of three years in the project areas. Out of these 110 FOs are in Tharaka Nithi and 50 in Embu Counties respectively. The Initial targeted figure was 132-150 FOs.
- These FOs have a potential to reach over 13,000 farmers through application of the multiplier effects capacity development strategy.
- Facilitating the development of a clear and motivating vision, building the FOs capabilities in group governance and management for effective service delivery
- Building effective partnerships with key players in value chain of targeted crops to develop and successful production, utilization and commercialization. In addition, the FOs will be empowered to document the processes used and review progress over time in order to use the lessons learned to improve their productions and incomes.
- The Project is promoting Cereals (Green Grams, Sorghum, Cow peas and Pigeon Peas) Value Chains Development.
- Efforts are being made to integrate matters of Soil Health, Provision of inputs and capacity enhancement of Farmers Organizations in the targeted areas.
Smallholder farmers contribute about 70% of the agricultural production in Kenya but very little efforts have been put in place to build their organizational and operational capacities of Farmer Organizations (FOs) to enable them provide effective services to their members and strengthen the voice for agricultural reforms and enactment of favorable policies.
The Key Challenges facing farmers and which shall be addressed include: Inadequate Technical and Entrepreneurial Capacities of FOs;Inability to utilize collective advantage to influence access to input/output markets and Poor and weak partnerships. GRADIF-K is making efforts to facilitate linkages between FOs with relevant Service providers as well as strengthening strategic partnerships with relevant stakeholders along the value chain.
The key strategies being applied in the implementation of this project are: Needs assessments and developing Capacity Building programmes of targeted FOs and other project stake holders, Identification and Advocacy for profitable, markets, Networking with key actors, building of strategic partnerships and linking FOs with various service providers including coporates, financial institutions and Agricultural Research institutions, documentation and dissemination of success stories. We also provide FOs with opportunities for lesson learning and experience sharing. The project’s interventions shall continue to focus mainly on addressing the key challenges to be identified by the proposed baseline survey. It is hoped that the effective and successful implementation of the ECAFO Project will enable the FOs provide effective services to their members,strengthen the voice for agricultural reforms and enactment of favorable policies. The specific sub-counties to be covered by the project are: Tharaka-South Sub county, Tharaka-North Sub county, Igambang’ombe Sub County and the Mbeere- North Sub County in Tharaka Nithi and Embu Counties respectively.
Key Proposed Activities
Activities Under Objective 1:
- Undertake a baseline survey to Profile targeted FOs, identifying the FOs Capacity Gaps and develop effective tailor made capacity development interventions to enable them serve their members better. The AGRA’s Capacity Performance Indicator (CPI) tool will be used.
- Identifying and selecting appropriate service providers for service provision to FOs in the project area
- Training of farmers in order to meet the requirements of the service providers e.g. aggregation/bulking, produce quality/standards, warehousing, group marketing, financial literacy
- Conduct tailor made capacity development trainings of the FOs and service providers in agricultural value chain
- Organize consultative meetings between FOs and service providers
- Facilitate agreements/contracts between service providers and FOs.
- Support the FOs with ICT and data management
- Train FO leaders in group management, leadership, entrepreneurship and as per identified gaps.
- Facilitate FO campaigns and mobilization to recruit new members with a gender focus in 6 constituencies in the two targeted counties.
- Link up FOs with appropriate service providers e.g. for Agricultural inputs, extension services, Markets, financial services among others.
Planned Activities Under Objective 2:
- Identify financial literacy needs of FO members through a needs assessment
- Identify and map financial institutions in the 2 Counties, and document services offered and their requirements.
- Train 200 (TOTS) on business development, record keeping, money management, bank requirements, entrepreneurship in addition to topics that enhance their financial literacy skills
- Facilitate and support the TOTs to train FO members of the 100 FOs on the above topics.
- Facilitate meetings between Agri-finance institutions and FOs for better understanding and engagement.
- Improved capacity of FOs to deliver quality services to members;
- Increased number of FOs with improved organizational capacities, social and human capital to participating in diverse development initiatives.
- Improved food security and at the household levels as well improved household incomes
- Creation of job opportunities within the value chain
- Increased access to credit, profitable markets and other services from SPs by FO members
- Improved partnerships and collaborations with SPs and other Actors in Agriculture
- Functional and sustainable FOs to continue serving their members and other community/SHF beyond the project period.
Potential Risks that are likely to affect the project
- High expectations: Farmers expecting to get quick results while FOs improvement interventions produces slow but sustainable benefits. This will be mitigated through constant communication with the farmers, and ensuring that they understand the pipeline of progress.
- Extreme climatic conditions such as prolonged droughts and flooding resulting in poor project performance: Spread the project activities across different agro-ecological regions in each county; apply climate-resilient agronomy to mitigate against this.