Communities living in Ngarua are mostly agricultural producers and small scale traders. They work really hard to produce food crops for subsistence use and surpluses for trade. ''You mention direct access to commodity markets and you take their attention by a swoop'' said Sam Githumbi, a youthful C.K.C user. This is true since, for many years he has witnessed the community suffer exploitation by middlemen who buys their produce at low prices.
The introduction of E-marketing through the Agricultural Resource Platform (C.R.P) to the community therefore brings great relief to hardworking farmers whose gains are lost after changing many hands of middlemen and exploitative buyers. The portal is also called (Soko Pepe) in Swahili.
A week after my arrival at Sipili, I attended a group meeting by small scale business people who have come together to combine their efforts in addressing their common challenges. All the members in attendance were women and this could attest to the fact that women have been empowered to run their own affairs equally, as men. At first I thought it was a women's only affair, I later learnt that there are some male members, but the participation of over 15 women in attendance was impressive. The chairperson who is a man, was out on other urgent group business.
The group so called Lengo Letu Self help Group, was started over 15 years ago and has a number of 23 members . It was started solely to bring together like minded individuals who had things to do in common. At first they went round visiting each member's home to survey and inspect their farms and the activities done there . Each member contributed small amount of money . As time went by, they conceived an idea of starting a micro-finance, to enhance their small scale business activities and farming.
The 23 members contributed money to a pool, raising over one hundred thousand Kenya shillings. The amount is then advanced to individual members in form of loans repayable with a small interest, “With our small business in the market, we are able to repay the loan without chasing members up and down”. Said one of the members during the meeting.
The presence and accessibility to such a loaning facility has enabled members to start small business especially buying and selling Agricultural produce i.e. cereals, fruits and vegetables which they trade at Sipili market.
In spite of limited availability of funds, the group has worked hard beating all odds to acquire plots and developing them. The group obtain cereals from large scale traders and transporters who have the capacity to buy and transport the stuff from far places where prices are low. Maize, beans and other cereals are brought from as far as Kitale and Lodiani districts. For now members of Lengo Letu can only afford to buy in small quantities due to the small amounts of capital and lack of access to external forms of credit. They have also started practicing agri-business i.e. growing of valuable and commercial crops like grain Amaranth and fruits.
Their efforts are however faced with challenges ranging from drought, lack of sufficient capital, poor access to good markets on time, lack of access to external credit facilities and food shortages hindering smooth repayment of loans to their group's micro-finance.
I had visited them to deliver the news of Agricultural Commodity Resource platform, also called (Soko Pepe) in Swahili. The role of the CKC is mainly documenting and disseminating information into the community. On learning of the new marketing opportunity, Members of LENGO LETU SELF HELP GROUP were optimistic on exploiting available opportunities that comes with the portal to expand their economic activities and enhance their social-economic life.
“Lengo letu” is a Swahili word meaning (Our goal) it's no doubt the group was formed with the goal of uniting like minded people to join hands in the struggle to realize development and give a concerted efforts to the fight against poverty. The C.K.C was established in partnership between a local Community Based Organized (C.B.O) called Laikipia Center for Knowledge and Information (LACKIN) and a Nairobi based international Network; the Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN). C.R.P is promoted by ALIN and LACKIN through Ngarua Community Knowledge Centre (C.K.C).
Some members got a chance to learn more about the Community Knowledge Center “we have been seeing the office but we have never taken effort to know exactly what takes place inside” said one woman in the meeting. I took that chance to explain to them further about the progress of the C.K.C.
The most captivating news to Lengo letu self help group was that of Soko Pepe which would be of tremendous help in marketing their agricultural produce, through creation of external linkages with other potential business associates: buyers, sellers and other service providers from other parts of the country.
Members learnt of other information channels from ALIN i.e. through journals like the Baobab and Kilimo Endelevu Africa Internet, the Open Knowledge Network (O.K.N), Computer training's , Field days, Exchange Visits, etc. They welcomed the news of the free issues of the magazines and asked me to register them so that they can be receiving them. Many promised to be visiting the C.K.C for more information.
What originally was a familiarization and orientation meeting, it turned out to be a serious involvement where a strong bond was established between the group, Lackin, ALIN and Ngarua C.K.C. However, some group members had already registered while some did not really know much about the C.K.C and services available.
The meeting was organized courtesy of one of the LACKIN's member Mr. Mwangi Kichuki who introduced me to one of the group's member. Who latter came to pick me at the C.K.C to attend that meeting. It's no doubt the rapport created at the meeting forged a good working relationship between the group and the C.K.C.
There are high prospects of success owing to the way LENGO LETU is very organized, they hold monthly meetings on the third Sunday of every month in a designated office at Sipili market . They urged me to be free to attend their meetings so as to update them on new developments since they would like to receive a lot of information on development.
ALIN FIELD OFFICER,