Apese is a widow in Teso South Sub-county of Busia County, Kenya. Her son, who is in secondary school, was sent home today for not paying his school fees. Her youngest 8-year-old daughter has been sickly the last two days. She needs money urgently, so what to do?
She rushes to her granary and gets out the remaining millet and sorghum panicles. She dries them in the sun on the bare ground in front of her grass-thatched hut. She then gets down to beating them as hard as her feeble hands can, after which she winnows with a traditional tray.
She then gets her pestle and mortar for de-hulling the grain. It has taken her 5 hours to process only 10 kg and now she ponders, where will I sell the last of last season’s produce?
She sends her son to the neighbors to ask if anyone needs the grain as she rushes to the nearby bush for firewood. After all, dinner has to be prepared. Unfortunately, there is no available buyer, even with the throwaway price she offers.
She has to rush to the market before its dark and gets to sell at the greedy trader’s price. However, what else can she do? She needs the money badly.
What if she could have all her season’s produce threshed at once? What if she didn’t have to worry about the market or prices? What if she didn’t have to search for firewood every day?
My name is Catherine Wanjiku, a 31-year-old Kenyan from Busia county. I run Farm-Grown solutions, which provides agro-inputs and extension services to farmers in Busia.
She can smile
I want to provide processing services and markets for these rural communities through a portable threshing machine that can access the remotest of areas, cutting back on this labor-intensive, time-consuming and uneconomical activity. We then buy the grain from these farmers in bulk as it is easier to get market from millers and traders.
There are many by-products from the farm to processing. I plan to make briquettes from compacting the waste, then charring them to make charcoal for fuel. Apese will therefore not need to search for firewood every day, and we conserve the little remaining trees.
The push factor?
Apese would be a happier liberated mother with more time and extra energy to not only take care of her family but also to increase enterprises in her farm. She will be able to take care of her obligations efficiently. What with the increased farm-enterprises, she would enjoy a cleaner healthier environment with reduced deforestation due to the new clean source of fuel.
One, two, three…
With the farmers already aware and ready to use our services for processing their produce, we begin by making a programme for the various villages after the harvesting period. We then inform the farmers prior to our visit and they bring their produce to a central place where we process and purchase the grain. We also collect the by-products and bring them to our facility for briquette making, which will be sold to sustain the enterprise. We then get markets for the grain.
Achievements so far
Through our extension services, the farmers are aware and more than willing to use the threshing technology. We have acquired the threshing machine and land to put up a storage structure. We have also identified collection centers close to the farmers.
Actual measurable factors
With the labor-intensive processing activity mechanized, and access to market and better prices provided, the area under production is bound to increase. This also translates to increased income and improved livelihoods. There will also be increase in number of farm enterprises due to the freed labour.
Additionally, more trees will be spared due to the new source of fuel for the community, thus conserving a better ecosystem.
We will put up the storage structure for $2000 from April to June and buy the briquette-making machine for $1200 from July to august. We also buy tarpaulins for $1000 from July to august and use $800 for buying the produce from farmers august to January.
Her dreams are valid
$5000 will change the life of Apese and the Teso community by mechanizing the processing of these crops, which are the staple foods in this and other semi-arid areas. What a joy it would be to increase sources of income for Apese as well as the nutritional security that is in millet and sorghum.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Catherine Wanjiku (Kenya) – kateajaku[at]gmail.com
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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