“They say make hay when the sun shines, I say buy hay when you have access and money.”
I am Wycliffe Ondoro, 33, from Kenya, from Kisumu County. Together with my partners we run a private consultancy called Great Lakes Agricultural Solutions Kenya (GLAS-K).
The work force (labour) is said to be concentrated in the rural communities where studies show that more than a half of the people live below USD 1.25 a day. The majority are women who are faced with many challenges: from information access to the bigger global challenge of climate change.
I strongly believe that a community that is empowered has access to reliable information and enjoys the created conducive policy environment for any acquired information to thrive on. This is the reason behind GLAS-K.
Under its Smallholder Agro-Input Delivery System (SAIDS) initiative, GLAS-K contributes directly to addressing limited access to agro-inputs and makes an indirect contribution to expanding a limited extension service, poverty alleviation, low productivity, and unequal access to productive resources by women. This is as shown by five of the 16 key challenges identified by the studies of Farming First.
The goal of the initiative is to increase productivity per unit area through improved maize seeds and farming practices. An initiative geared towards ensuring that a group of farmers from a maize-clustered area or zone has the right maize seed at their doorstep and can undertake good agricultural practices.
This will solve the accessibility challenges given that the few agro-dealers there are are located in market centres and towns, far from the maize growing areas of the county. Moreover, the agro-dealers are only in business during the on-season, when planting is the main activity, but still do not serve a majority of farmers.
With the established committees from the common interest groups (CIGs) on-ground, GLAS-K will identify farmer groups (especially youth and women) who need to do maize crop production in the maize-growing zones of the Homabay, Kisumu, Siaya and Busia sub-counties, after a needs-assessment exercise.
This is an initiative that will embrace the supply-driven approach, where farmer-group members will register the quantity of maize seed required as per the area of land available for maize production. This will be documented as collected-cash amount equivalent to quantity requested by individual farmers.
Once registered and the cash amount collected by the group treasurer, GLAS-K will then source and deliver the right maize seed varieties relevant to the area’s agro-ecological zone (AEZ), in collaboration with seed companies and distributors in their respective collection/meeting centres.
Given a pool of agricultural experts within the team, GLAS-K will offer training on best agricultural practices, like land preparation, seed selection, planting, fertilization, pest and disease management, and postharvest handling. Subsequent follow-ups may be requested by farmer groups or individual farmers.
The targeted 1,000 farmers per sub-county assumes each has a minimum of one acre, thus require 10 kg of maize seed. An individual farmer will add KES 20 (i.e. Kenyan Shillings) on the buying price of that particular 2 kg seed packet, to cater for the logistics that GLAS-K will incur.
This means, for the 1,000 acres envisaged, 10,000 kg of maize seed will be delivered. The firm will then accrue KES 100,000 as a guarantee that the inputs will reach the farmers. The additional KES 20 will still be within the margin of the retail prices.
This will inculcate a culture of ownership as the firm strives to bring on board other stakeholders; those who can contribute to the improvement of the local community families livelihoods. Again the community will be able to access the right seed efficiently and conveniently before the onset of rain season hence increase production per unit area.
During the long rain season (March–June 2015), the firm together with one of the distributors (Awendo General Stores) supplied 2,000 kg of maize seed to a total of 300 farmers in Rangwe sub-county of Homa Bay County. The target was not reached as many farmers still doubted whether the seeds will be delivered after collecting their contribution.
However, the firm supplied 800 kg of maize on credit to desperate farmers who could not raise that amount though paid later as guaranteed. These are some of the isolated situation that firm feels would be addressed if extra funds are mobilized.
Thus, the need to request USD 5,000 grant: to cushion the firm and farmers in such desperate situations through establishing a satellite depot to ease and ascertain availability.
The success will be measured by the number of farmers who register and pay for the seed, total acreage under maize production, the productivity level, and those who actually applied the good agronomic practices learned. All these will be aided by the support of the established farmer committee who will be village-agent trained in basic financial literacy, simple monitoring, and evaluation protocol.
To empower the small farmer groups through a co-operative for enhanced bargaining power and enjoy the economies of scale.
With the USD 5,000 grant, the firm will put aside:
- USD 1,000 for training in the enterprise value chain, between April and July 2016, before onset of rain season
- USD 300 for demonstration plot establishment, where practical learning will be conducted from August to November 2016
- USD 1,500 will be to train the village agents who will co-ordinate maize seed delivery and spearhead the development of co-operative movement.
- USD 2,000 for co-operative formation, to run and manage the venture, with or without our firm, which will be a continuous, intensive process for a period of nine months.
- To comply with laws of Kenya, USD 200 will be used to legally register the co-operative.
We believe that with the proper instituted co-operative, other agro-inputs, like fertilizer, agrochemicals, and farm implements, will be stocked at the established satellite depots.
Together, we can improve the food security status of farming using the right agro-inputs to transform livelihoods for many families living in rural communities.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Wycliffe Ondoro (Kenya): wondoro7[at]gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar are at the discretion of the author only.
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