By Moses Ndungu
The Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society, based in Sipili town, Laikipia West Sub County has started an ambitious plan to recruit 1000 members by December this year. The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre is supporting the recruitment plan.
Currently with a membership of 345, the cooperative is targeting farmers from Sipili, Muhotetu, Karandi, and Ol-Moran areas. The recruitment drive will also see the cooperative open three new aggregation centers to complement the one in Sipili town.
Formed in 2013, the cooperative emerged from the work undertaken by ALIN through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre with the support of the Ford Foundation’s Expanding Livelihoods for Poor Households Initiative (ELOPHI).
|Some of the members being trained on good agricultural practices|
The cooperative’s mandate is mainly to aggregate the farming communities by pooling them together and empowering them to take control of their farm’s enterprises, aggregation of farm produce and collective marketing to enhance their bargaining power and profit margins.
Mr. Waweru Kanja, Chairman, Laikipia Produce, and Marketing Cooperative Society said that the cooperative is keen to increase farmer’s income and ensure food security thus alleviating poverty amongst smallholder farmers.
He said that new members would be able to enjoy free services that include: training in agribusiness; training in maize, tomato, and tree tomato value chains; text messages on availability of new stocks; aggregation of cereals; access to Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP) market; and access to storage facilities.
Other benefits include: guaranteed better market for members cereals; market commodities prices via Sokopepe; training on Farm Record Management Information System (FARMIS); extension services; and better prices for agro inputs.
“Through seeds and fertilizer services, the cooperative has been able to control market prices in Sipili Township, reduced cases of fake seeds and boosted members bargaining power,” said Mr. Kanja.
He said that the cooperative has been linking smallholder farmers with a fair market like HGSFP and reducing exploitation of farmers by traders. Formation of partnerships with input producers has also helped the cooperative to secure farm inputs at fair prices thus reducing member’s production cost.
He said that the support provided by partners that include; ALIN, SNV- Netherlands Development Organization, Kenya Seed Company Ltd, MEA Ltd, Kilimo Biashara Profilers, Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock has enabled them to undertake a lot of activities on behalf of farmers.
“We intend to become a leading farmer based organization by increasing the wealth, food, and nutritional security of farmers. We are empowering smallholder farmers with skills to aggregate farm produce and become agribusiness oriented,” said Mr. Kanja.
As one of SNV’s Grain Business Hub (GBH), the cooperative has been able to trade in grains efficiently, effectively and sustainably. It has also been able to access other structured grain markets.
|Subsidized government fertilizer being offloaded into the cooperative store|
Mr. Bob Aston from Ng’arua Maarifa Centre noted that ALIN is keen to ensure members of the cooperative benefit through SOKO+. The digital commodity trading and information system links small-scale farmers to end retailers/bulk purchasers of produce.
“SOKO+ has harnessed the power of information and communication technologies by enabling farmers to efficiently reach and exploit a fair market for their produce,” said Mr. Aston.
He said that the organization is also keen to ensure members of the cooperative commercialize their farming enterprises through use of FARMIS. The service provides farmers with a secure environment to record, store, analyze and generate reports of their agricultural enterprises.
“FARMIS gives farmers holistic year-round monitoring, data collection, entry, storage, and mid-season analysis to enable appropriate farm planning and sustainable market linkages,” said Mr. Aston.
ALIN through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre has been working with smallholder farmers in Laikipia West Sub County by providing information and knowledge products focused on small-scale sustainable agriculture, climate change, natural resources management (NRM), sustainable land management (SLM), and markets.