Friday, January 31, 2014

ALIN’s intervention inspire farmer’s to create wealth



By Bett Kipsang'
 
Farmers in Ng’arua Laikipia west district have had to contend with perennial challenges of adulterated planting materials for a long time. Their lamentations usually start long after the planting season, especially when the crops are about to mature. That is when farmers start suspecting something could have gone wrong at some point. It’s often too late, and they stare helplessly at the possibility of heavy losses, food shortage and a bleak future. What a crippling reality for families whose mainstay is agriculture? The little harvested crops are usually disposed at through way prices due to lack of organized marketing structures.

However, an intervention by Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), in Ng’arua to mobilize and empower small holder farmers to take the lead in value chain development for their farming activities, has renewed the hopes of farmers. 

Farmer organizations and market access - The Ng’arua Maarifa Centre was set up by ALIN seven years ago. An online marketing platform Sokopepe(www.sokopepe.co.ke) loosely meaning a virtual market was piloted at the centre. The project has now proved noble in reversing the negative effects of farmer exploitation and positioning small scale farmers in the path of enterprise development. 

The experiences gained from Sokopepe, informed the organization to advice farmers on the crucial role of farmer organizations in farm production and marketing. Farmers in Sipili chose to revisit the cooperative movement, though the name did not have a soft landing due to its not very nice past.

A concerted effort was put to mobilize farmers into producer groups, followed by a series of capacity building trainings and linkages to other development partners. The good news is that farmers are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, the new farmer organizations are now taking the bull but its horns and their efforts are yielding big success.
Cooperatives around the world have had their fair share of challenges and farmers in ng’arua were not an exception. They had been into many cooperatives which have since gone under with their investments. Convincing farmers to go the cooperative way was not a simple task. However, the government has established a fully fledged ministry of cooperative and enterprises development and passed appropriate legislation to govern the sector. 

Laikipia Produce and marketing cooperative Society was registered in June 2013, courtesy of ALIN and the ministry of cooperative’s intervention. Seven months down the line the society boast of over two hundred members they have hired a store and bulked a few hundreds of maize bags to be sold when prices improve.

After registration, ALIN responded to the societies plea for access to certified seeds by linking them to the Kenya seed company. The cooperative farmers in Sipili, started the process of acquiring agency certificate without hesitation. Kenya Seeds Company and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) have completed the process of awarding an Agency certificate to the society. All systems are ready to go as the cooperative prepare to buy inputs directly from authorized suppliers and distribute to members and the community in general. 

 Reports privy to the societies accounts have indicated that the society has collected close to a million shillings from farmers in readiness to buy seeds and fertilizer for the next planting season. 

The Laikipia Produce and Marketing Cooperative Society is planning to launch the inputs distribution enterprises sometimes next week. Plans are underway to negotiate with Kenya Seed Company to deliver the first consignment to the ground. 

 The Ng’arua Maarifa Centre conducts community needs assessments and package appropriate information products to meet the needs of local farmers. This can be in form of farmer organization, networking, market linkages, value chain development and post harvest handling.

The cooperative society will be a direct beneficiary of the market access initiatives via Sokopepe which utilizes modern technologies, like internet and mobile phones in sourcing and dissemination market information like prices and farming tips among others. 

 Farmer profiling - ALIN is now partnering with Farmer Record Management Information System (FARMIS) (www.farmis.co.ke) to roll out an information management system to support farmers in managing their farm records; the system generates a report at the end of every season and the data generated by farmers into the system will be beneficial when they are bargaining for Agri-business loans and will inform decision making along value chains based on facts. 


Networking and linkages - ALIN works hand in hand with stakeholders like government agencies, private companies, small scale farmers and NGO’s in the area. Ng’arua Maarifa Centre scouts for potential networks and partnerships linkages with stakeholders seeking to reach grass root farmers with information, products and other development assistance. 
 
So far the centre is in touch with partners like; Agriculture Sector Development Support Program (ASDSP) Laikipia county, East African Grain Council (EAGC), Kenya Seed Company Ltd, AMIRAN Kenya, Chase Bank, among others. The centre has also organized meetings between farmer groups and companies like Chase Bank, AMIRAN, Kenya Seed Company and EAGC. 

The linkages created facilitate information sharing which is fast expanding the knowledge base of farmers in the area and promoting a sense of enthusiasm and motivation to take farming to the next level.

Speaking during a visit to Ng’arua Maarifa Centre this month, Mr. Samuel Rutto, the regional manager, East African Grain Council, informed farmers that EAGC has a mandate to certify cereal stores so that farmers can benefit from a program called warehouse receipting system.

 The system enables farmers to get access to bank loans using the cereals stock as security, until prices improves. Rutto commended the centre for the noble activities and offered to link the farmer organizations to any of the other input suppliers he knew. He introduced the cooperative to MEA, a company distributing fertilizer.

Communities converge at the Ng’arua Maarifa Centre to access information, new developments and opportunities; they no longer have any cause for worry.

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