News and knowhow for farmers

Vil­lage-based co­oper­at­ive works with farm­ers to im­prove their yields & in­comes

farmers sorting potatoes

It is not farm­ing as usual for more than 400 small­holder farm­ers in Ki­ambu, Nyandarua and Kaji­ado counties. The farm­ers have em­braced the use of high yield­ing seeds, cor­rect use of fer­til­iser and ac­cess to water and mar­ket thanks to Vil­lage Eco­nomic Em­power­ment, a Kenyan vil­lage-based co­oper­at­ive that works with the farm­ers to im­prove their yields and in­comes.

The co­oper­at­ive through a team of its ag­ro­nom­ists ap­proach the farm­ers in their farm areas where they talk to them and ad­vise them on how to im­prove on their pro­duc­tion with bet­ter farm­ing prac­tices using cer­ti­fied seeds and fartil­iser.

“We do not force farm­ers to work with us but we visit them and sell to them our ideas and agen­das. Most of them have ac­cep­ted to be­come our mem­bers by a free re­gis­tra­tion to be able to enjoy our ser­vices,” said Elvis Git­h­inji, CEO of the co­oper­at­ive and one of the co-founders.

These farm­ers are then grouped as per the crop they are in­ter­ested to grow for hands-on train­ing ses­sions with spe­cific les­sons or­gan­ised by the ag­ro­nom­ist. The prac­tical classes are con­duc­ted in the fields where the crops are or grown.

Elvis halping farmers receive certified seeds

Mr. Elvis Git­h­inji (right) is­su­ing cer­ti­fied seeds to farm­ers of Vil­lage Eco­nomic Em­power­ment co­oper­at­ive. Photo cour­tesy.

RE­LATED CON­TENT: Embu co­oper­at­ive group turns farm­ers into net sup­pli­ers

Pota­toes, for ex­ample, have 16 les­sons for farm­ers to go through while ve­get­ables have shorter train­ing les­sons.

After train­ing farm­ers get sub­sid­ised farm in­puts which in­clude fer­til­iser and seeds which are mostly sourced from Kenya Ag­ri­cul­tural and Live­stock Re­search Or­gan­isa­tion (KALRO) by the co­oper­at­ive on be­half of the farm­ers.

“Since we star­ted work­ing with the grow­ers in 2012, we have real­ised that most of them still de­pend on the tra­di­tional farm­ing meth­ods which no longer be­ne­fit them in terms of pro­duc­tion and mar­ket­ing hence the train­ing and giv­ing them the ac­cess to clean plant­ing ma­ter­i­als to up their yields and in­come,” said Elvis.

RE­LATED CON­TENT: Vil­lage co­oper­at­ives re­define value ad­di­tion

Once the pro­duce are ma­ture and ready for mar­ket, the co­oper­at­ive through its busi­ness as­so­ci­ate, Change Busi­ness Kenya buys the pro­duce from farm­ers hence provid­ing ready mar­ket for them.

“On this, we have sev­eral mar­ket link­ages for our grow­ers to en­sure they are not stran­ded with their pro­duce, a situ­ation that may cre­ate chance for ex­ploit­a­tion by un­scru­pu­lous middle­men.”

Already the co­oper­at­ive has a cold stor­age at Kin­ari, Ki­ambu with a ca­pa­city of 80 tonnes and a seed cur­ing stor­age at Karangatha with a ca­pa­city of 50 tonnes.

It has also dug a bore­hole for Kaji­ado farm­ers and in­stalled ir­rig­a­tion equip­ment that will en­able the farm­ers prac­tice bucket farm­ing within their Man­yat­tas.

RE­LATED CON­TENT: Col­lect­ive bar­gain­ing helps farm­ers’ co­oper­at­ive earn 2bn from potato farm­ing

So far the co­oper­at­ive has trained 25 per cent of its farm­ers and once all are trained, it will start think­ing of ex­port­ing the farm­ers pro­duce.

“We are still un­able to ex­port the pro­duce be­cause of high stand­ards needed by reg­u­lat­ing agen­cies and the mar­kets but once more farm­ers are trained and they can pro­duce enough for ex­port, we will start con­sid­er­ing selling to other coun­tries,” said Elvis.

The co­oper­at­ive gets its fund­ing from vari­ous donors.

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