Sunday, November 20, 2016

Lead farmers proving important in innovations adoptions

By Bob Aston
The t-shirt attracted his attention. He wondered what the inscribed word ‘Sokopepe’ meant. He read the word ‘Farm records, Profitable and Agribusiness’ at the back of the t-shirt and his curiosity rose.
He approached the person wearing the t-shirt, introduced himself as Mr. Joseph Kaaria Mberia and asked:” What is Sokopepe all about?”
Over a glass of milk at Meru Dairy Milk Bar at Nyaki East Ward in Meru County, Mr. Meshack Kirimi Magiri, a lead farmer at Gaitu Farmer Group took Mr. Mberia through what Sokopepe does.
Mr. Magiri narrated to Mr. Mberia how he came to associate with Sokopepe’s Farm Records Management Information System (FARMIS) and how it has enabled him to increase his production and profit from his agricultural enterprises.
“Sokopepe has trained and mentored me on conservation agriculture. I now train farmers who are working with Sokopepe and Food and Agriculture Organization,” said Mr. Magiri.
Mr. Joseph Mberia (L) looking on during a conservation agriculture training
Mr. Magiri then linked him to Mr. Josphat Musenze, a Sales and Marketing officer at Sokopepe
The following day he travelled to Meru town to hold talks with Mr. Musenze at Sokopepe's office. An hour later, he had paid the Kshs. 500 subscription fee and received a Farm Book. He embarked on mobilizing farmers around Nyaki to receive training on conservation agriculture and record keeping from Sokopepe.
Learning that he will be able to realize higher yields and also reverse the effects of soil degradation caused by mechanical tillage made him set aside a quarter of an acre as a demonstration plot for conservation agriculture.
He decided to form a farmer group, which now acts as an entry point to Ntani village and Nyaki East Ward farmers.
“I believe in learning through asking. FARMIS will help us in crop selection, adoption of agricultural innovations and good management practices. We will be using the record keeping data to know which crops are more profitable,” said Mr. Mberia.
Mr. Mberia retired from the Kenya military as a medical officer in July 2016. He decided to concentrate on dairy, poultry and crop farming in his 2 acre farm.
He said that Sokopepe has enabled him to know how much he is investing in each enterprise and projected income from each crop. Every Thursday Ms. Alice Mukami, a Production Information Agent (PIA) at Sokopepe visits his farm to check the progress of his agribusiness and to assist him fill his farm book.
Mr. Mberia has been a staunch advocate of Sokopepe amongst farmers. His conviction that empowering farmers would enhance food security has seen him elected as a coordinator of Sokopepe lead farmers group.
Sokopepe is planning to use close to 2000 lead farmers in Meru County to help increase agricultural production. The social enterprise believes that farmer-to farmer approach to agricultural extension enhances innovations adoption.

Access to finance enables farmers to enjoy new opportunities

By Bob Aston
She used to abhor planting seasons, as she had to contend with high input costs.  Difficulties in accessing affordable credit have always been a strain on her small farm. This season, she was fortunate to get a Kilimo Bora loan after Sokopepe linked her to a micro finance institution.
Mrs. Emery Kawira, a smallholder farmer from Kiirua area of Buuri Sub County in Meru County was among the financially excluded farmers until three months ago when Sokopepe convinced her to start saving through Times U Sacco Society Ltd. Initially, she was unable to receive credit facilities as financial institutions cited her lack of proper book keeping as a barrier to receiving credit when evaluating her viability for loan.
She says that the training organised by Sokopepe’s Farm Records Management Information System (FARMIS) has empowered and enabled her to utilize the Kshs 20,000 Kilimo Bora loan to improve her agribusiness.
“The beauty of FARMIS is that financial institutions can review our records over a period of time to determine whether we are capable of managing credit,” says Mrs. Kawira.
She has planted maize, beans and potatoes on her 2-acre farm and recorded all the expenses in her farm book to ensure accountability. She is planning to apply for a bigger loan to invest in her farm to increase her productivity and profitability.
Koongo Ka Nyumba Women Group members learning about FARMIS
On her part, Mrs. Mary Kirima has also used her Kshs. 20,000 Kilimo Bora loan to cultivate beans, maize and potatoes in her 3 acre farm. She almost quit farming last year after crop failure but Sokopepe’s Production Information Agents (PIAs) convinced her not to give up on farming.
 “I am able to track all my agribusiness enterprises and expenses incurred. This has ensured proper use of the Kilimo Bora loans,” said Mrs. Kirima.
After saving for some time, she was able to apply and receive a Kilimo Bora loan from Times U Sacco. She used the loan to buy farm inputs and to improve her farm.
The Sacco charges Kshs 600 as registration fee and a farmer can borrow up to three times the amount saved. Times U Sacco will also train the farmers on financial literacy. The Kilimo Bora loan attracts a 9 percent interest rate. The repayment is after four months when the farmers have harvested.
Mrs. Jedida Karamuta notes that this year she has not struggled to get money for farm inputs and other expenses, unlike previous years, as she was able to receive the Kilimo Bora loan. She received Kshs. 20,000, which she has invested in her farm. Sokopepe has trained her on record keeping. She has also increased the acreage under potatoes, beans and maize to 3 acres unlike before when she used to cultivate only on an acre.
She says that most financial institutions are usually reluctant to lend to farmers but this has changed after training on record keeping and financial literacy.
“FARMIS has enabled me to track my expenditure for each farm enterprise. I have used the loan prudently as I have kept good farm records,” says Mrs. Karamuta.
Mr. Josphat Musenze, Sales and Marketing Officer at Sokopepe  says that difficulty in accessing credit facilities has hindered the productivity of most smallholder farmers as they lack enough financing for purchasing farm inputs.
“We are leveraging on existing relationships within the value chains to ensure farmers access financial services sustainably while the financially excluded enjoy new possibilities,”  says Mr. Musenze.
He reiterates that financial inclusion will ensure that there are more banked farmers. This will enable smallholder farmers to make informed decisions on financial products and services.
Sokopepe has been linking Meru farmers with financial institutions. This has enabled most of the farmers to reach their potential, as they are able to deal with high costs of inputs. The social enterprise is also working with financial service providers to build financial literacy for smallholder farmers as well as their financial capabilities.
Financial inclusion is a powerful tool for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in promoting economic growth and ending poverty. Smallholder farmers need access to financial services to generate income from their agricultural enterprises, build assets, and manage risks.

Friday, November 11, 2016

More than just a demonstration farm, a place farmers call home

By Bob Aston
The soothing rays of the sun seemed to energize the women as they worked tirelessly in the half an acre potato demonstration plot at Kiboko Farm in Kiolo village, Mikinduri East in Meru County.  They animatedly chat as they weed and admire the beauty of the flowering crop. Most of them concur that they will realize a good harvest through the demonstration farm.
I joined the women together with Mr. Martin Murangiri, Field Coordinator and Liaison Officer at Sokopepe in taking stock of the progress of the farm. They inform us that the potatoes looked ‘beautiful’ as they had sprayed them with plantmate bio-organic fertilizer from Wanda Organic.
We finish weeding and then converge under a banana tree. The women have been meeting every Monday at the demonstration farm to learn good agricultural practices and record keeping from Sokopepe’s Production Information Agents (PIAs).
Farmers working at the demonstration plot
Their leader, Mrs. Margaret Wangari started by reminding them of their decision to plant the Sherekea potato variety  which is disease resistant, high yielding and drought tolerant. She said that not many farmers in the area cultivate potatoes but Sokopepe convinced them to diversify to potatoes and other high value crops.
The passion and enthusiasm exhibited by the women was eminent as they recollected how Sokopepe is enabling them to increase their income through Farm Records Management Information System (FARMIS). Out of curiosity, I asked one of the women what she felt about FARMIS.
Mrs. Paulina Nkoroi narrated how she only realised that the cause of her dwindling potato production was the use of previous harvests as tubers for planting. The training conducted by Sokopepe at the demonstration farm enabled her to appreciate the importance of using certified seeds and embracing good farm management practices.
“Sokopepe has changed my perception on agriculture and the importance of record keeping in agribusiness,” said Mrs. Nkoroi.
She reiterates that she has learned how to fill her farm book and at the end of this season, she will be able to determine whether she is engaging in profitable enterprises or not. This will enable her to opt to growing other lucrative crops and therefore enhance her household income.
“I now know that good land preparation, use of high quality seeds and appropriate fertilizer is paramount in potato farming,” noted Mrs. Florence Munjaro.
Mrs. Munjaro said she has been diligently filling in her farm book and she hopes that at the end of this season she will be able to extract a profit and loss statement. Previously, she did not know whether she was making a profit or loss from her agricultural enterprises. Receiving extension services from Sokopepe’s PIAs has motivated and given her hope that she can succeed as a farmer.
“I want to make money and I believe that the knowledge that I am gaining will help me become a better farmer,” said Mrs. Munjaro.
Mr. Murangiri said that Sokopepe decided to establish the demonstration plot to help farmers learn how to improve their farming practices, adopt new technologies and practice climate smart agriculture.
“On-farm demonstrations serve as one of the most effective extension education tools. We hope that farmers are replicating what they are learning,” said Mr. Murangiri.
On-farm demonstrations are effective means of reducing the risks farmers anticipate.  The demonstrations allow farmers to see, hear, discuss, participate and learn by doing, as most farmers believe that ‘seeing is believing.’

Monday, October 31, 2016

Embracing agribusiness: A catalyst for smallholder farmer’s empowerment

By Bob Aston
Three years ago Mr. Eliud Kirema's fascination with agribusiness made him to leave Nairobi. He returned to Meru to start farming in his 6-acre piece of land. He expected to make huge profits but that has never been the case.
Low farm incomes made him to deliberate on how he would seek for agribusiness training.  An opportunity soon arose when he heard from a friend about an agribusiness training organized by Sokopepe on October 28, 2016 at M.C.K Kalithiria Church in Tigania West. He decided to attend the training to see if he could learn more about agribusiness.
Mr. Gachara Gikungu training farmers on agribusiness

Armed with a notebook and a pen, he took a vintage position and waited for Mr. Gachara Gikungu from Kilimo Biashara Promoters to begin the training. 

Attending his first agribusiness lesson proved an eye opener for him. He looked solemn and occasionally shook his head in agreement as Mr. Gachara narrated how most farmers sell green maize at Kshs 3 each yet they had labored for close to 4 months. He equated the price of 3 green maize to one lollipop.
His facial expression kept changing depending on the topic of discussion. He laughed nervously when Mr. Gachara remarked that traders who roast maize earn more in a few minutes than what farmers earn from the same crop in 4 months as the traders buy the green maize at Kshs 3 and then sell at Kshs 20 after roasting.
He nodded in agreement as Mr. Gachara narrated how some maize farmers would celebrate at the end of the season when they make kshs. 20,000 yet they did not track their costs and revenues from farming and could as well have made a loss without knowing.
After the training he approached Ms. Dorcas Gachui, Sokopepe’s Production Information Agent (PIA) and inquired how he could join Sokopepe’s Farm Records Management Information System (FARMIS).
He paid the Kshs 500 subscription fee after Ms. Gachui had shown him how to adopt the service. Ms. Gachui informed him that FARMIS would enable him to appreciate farming as a business. The service would enable him to track the performance of his farm enterprises thus enabling him to make informed decision at the end of the season.
Women farmers reading about FARMIS
“I hope through Sokopepe my agribusiness will become more productive and profitable. I now know that I have to be an entrepreneur,” said Mr. Kirema.
Like any other smallholder farmer, Mr. Kirema has been having difficulties accessing various services for his farm enterprises such as adequate finance, functional markets, relevant and timely market information and high quality inputs.
 “I could relate with most of the things that Mr. Gachara taught. It is clear that I have not realized the agribusiness potential of my farm,” said Mr. Kirema.
He has a vague sense of the direction his farm is taking as he has not kept proper records of his beans, maize and soya beans enterprises. He hopes that embracing agribusiness will increase his income and allow him to diversify to livestock farming.
His parting shot is that Sokopepe should continue organizing agribusiness training for smallholder farmers. He reckons that such trainings would enable more farmers to inculcate a culture of record keeping and practice agribusiness.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Climate is changing, food and agriculture must too

By Bob Aston
"Climate is changing, food and agriculture must too," is the theme of 2016 World Food Day. Msumarini in Kilifi County is today hosting this year’s celebration, which is usually marked on October 16.
This year’s theme looks at how agriculture and food systems need to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and become more resilient, productive, and sustainable. 
The day also focuses on raising awareness about the actions people around the world can take to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Farmers being trained on Conservation Agriculture
Sokopepe Partnerships and Linkages officer Ms. Judith Nkatha noted that strengthening resilience of smallholder farmers through conservation agriculture could play a transformative role in addressing the impacts of climate change.
"We are helping to enhance food security, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and reverse the effects of soil degradation caused by mechanical tillage in Meru County,” said Ms. Nkatha.
She said that the pace and severity of climate change risks overwhelming smallholder farmers hence the social enterprise is helping farmers adopt conservation agriculture as a way of combining profitable agricultural production with environmental concerns and sustainability.
Growing food in a sustainable way means adopting practices that produce more with less in the same area of land and wise use of natural resources. 
It also means reducing food losses before the final product or retail stage through better harvesting, storage, packing, transport, infrastructure, market mechanisms, as well as institutional and legal frameworks.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), higher temperatures and increase in weather related disasters are affecting the worlds poorest more than others.
FAO estimates that agricultural production must rise by about 60 percent by 2050 to feed a larger population. 
Ms. Nkatha said that Sokopepe is training farmers on best agricultural practices to enable them produce more with less as well as reduce post-harvest losses.
The United Nations (UN) General Assembly declared 16th October as World Food Day to honor the date of the founding of FAO in 1945. 
The day aims to heighten public awareness of world food security and strengthen solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Increasing opportunities for women farmers

Women play an important role in food production and in achieving greater food security. However, few women have access to land tenure, extension services, finance, education, market, and control of family funds.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), providing female farmers access to the same resources as men could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100-150 million.

In Meru County, Sokopepe through its Farm Records Management Information System (FARMIS) is helping women farmers pull down the barriers that they face. 
Lucy Karimi preparing to take her tomatoes to the market

The innovation is helping women farmers move from subsistence to commercial farming. It is also helping women make right farming decisions for increased production and productivity.
FARMIS is helping women to track their agribusinesses as they perform other household duties. Three women based in Kariene Ward in Imenti Central shared their views on how Sokopepe is helping them reach their potential in farming.
Mrs. Peninah Kinanu said that Sokopepe has enabled her to venture into horticulture farming. She decided to cultivate tomatoes and cabbages in her one-acre piece of land. She said that it is now easier to know whether she is making a profit or loss at the end of each season.
 “Sokopepe has built my confidence as a farmer. I can I now take care of my family from the proceeds that I receive from the farm,” said Mrs. Kinanu.
On her part, Agnes Mwaki almost gave up on farming before a Sokopepe Production Information Agent (PIA) convinced her that FARMIS would help her track all her agribusiness enterprises, schedule different farm events and track all her expenses. She then started cultivating onions, kales, and beetroot.
She said that a PIA visits her farm once a week to check the progress of her crops as well as assist her fill the farm book. She said that when women farmers flourish, families and communities do too.
“I now know how much I am investing in each enterprise and projected income from each crop. I also carry out market survey in order to determine crop prices before planting,” said Mwaki.
On her part, Lucy Karimi said that embracing record keeping through FARMIS enabled her to determine profitable crops and enterprises that were “eating” into her profits.
Last season she planted tomatoes of which she has already harvested 1,000 kgs.  She is selling the tomatoes to her neighbours and other traders.
Sokopepe PIAs training farmers on FARMIS
She said that the extension service provided by PIAs has enabled her to learn about pests and disease control. She is now able to control white flies and aphids in her one-acre farm leading to increased quality yields.
According to a World Bank report titled Levelling the field: improving opportunities for women farmers in Africa, a key hindrance to agricultural development and broader growth is a wide and pervasive gender gap in agricultural productivity. The report argues that tackling the barriers that hold back the productivity of female farmers could both enhance gender equality and usher in broader economic growth.
Sokopepe’s Agribusiness Manager Ms. Hildah Nkirote noted that closing the gender gap in agriculture is important in increasing production and enhancing food security.
She said Sokopepe has increased women participation in crops selection, adoption of agricultural innovations and good management practices, as families are increasingly using the record keeping data to know which crops are more profitable.
She said that Sokopepe is working with more than 5,000 women farmers in Meru County through trainings in record keeping, best agricultural practices, market information and linkages, conservation agriculture as well as promotion cultivation of high value crops among women.
“We are now building partnerships with agro-suppliers, agro financiers, extension service providers, and farmers groups to increase opportunities for women farmers,” said Ms. Nkirote.
Ensuring that women have equal access to productive resources is not only increasing agricultural productivity but has also ensured that more women have better control of their economic destinies. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Joto Afrika Edition 18 is out

By Bob Aston
The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) is pleased to present edition 18 of Joto Afrika newsletter.  The edition is a joint effort between ALIN and the Ministry of Environment Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities (MENRRDA) through the Low Emission and Climate Resilient Development (LECRD) Project.
Funding for the LECRD Project is by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), this is within the framework of the US Government led effort on Enhancing Capacity for Low Emission Development Strategy (EC-LEDS).
Joto Afrika edition 18

Joto Afrika, meaning “Africa is feeling the heat’ in Kiswahili is a series of printed briefings and online resources about climate change mitigation and adaptation actions in sub- Saharan Africa. The series helps people understand the issues, constraints, and opportunities that people face in adapting to climate change and escaping poverty.  
Edition 18 seeks to look into the role and involvement of youth in addressing climate change and further, highlight opportunities that need to be leveraged to consolidate ongoing engagements and build to scale successful youth led interventions.
Most evident, is the leading role youth in Kenya have played in championing for climate justice in global climate negotiations, their proven actions in conservation, afforestation, green energy, and smart agriculture. Of significance are their recent pilot actions to secure domestication of the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) in specific counties in Kenya.
It is in enabling transition to community level actions that we see a clear role for youth in Kenya. Considering that close to 50% of the Sub-Saharan population is under the age of 30 years and given the high levels of unemployment in the region, youth remain particularly vulnerable to climate threats and the impacts thereof.
Climate Change has remained one of the greatest threats to civilization. Its impacts continue to threaten lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable groups living in the global south.
It is our hope that readers will find the 18th edition of Joto Afrika as informative and that it would add value to their work in addressing the challenges and opportunities faced by youth regarding climate change as well as enable them learn about smart farming technologies that youth can adapt. You can download a copy of Joto Afrika issue here.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Increasing opportunities for smallholder farmers through partnerships

By Bob Aston
On September 24, 2016, Sokopepe convened a day’s meeting at Incredible Hotel in Meru County where Wanda Organic trained the social enterprise team on the importance of soil health and the role of bio-organic fertilizer.
Sokopepe is partnering with Wanda Organic to enhance good agricultural practices by promoting use of plantmate bio-organic fertilizer for enhanced soil fertility. 
The organic fertilizer is a mixture of plant and animal wastes through an advanced bio-fermentation process using BIO-PLUS activator. It is a result of over 40 years of biotechnology research in Southeast Asia, Australia and the Middle East.
Ms. Roseline Ngusa, Sokopepe Operations Director addressing the participants
Wanda Organic Director Ms. Marion Moon stressed on the importance of improving soil fertility. She noted that food crop yields per acre are on the decline partly due to continuous cropping without adequate soil nutrients replenishment. She said that plantmate bio-organic fertilizer works on the soils physical, biological, and chemical properties thus making it a unique product.
Further Ms. Moon stated that Wanda organic fertilizer contains beneficial microorganism and organic material, and is non-toxic and eco-friendly. In addition, they replenish soil nutrients, helps to increase yields, shorten crop cycles, and reduce crop diseases.
She noted that farmers could maximize their yields when they use it with a little chemical fertilizer. The organic fertilizer contains over 20 naturally occurring beneficial micro-organisms growing in a scientifically blended food base made of chelated trace elements, enzymes, amino acids, growth promotants and functional compounds.
“We want to improve productivity and profitability of smallholder farmers by providing economical, effective, and sustainable agricultural inputs,” said Ms. Moon.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, healthy soils are the foundation for food, fuel, fibre, and even medicine. FAO approximates that 33 percent of the global soil resources are degraded due to erosion, compaction, soil sealing, salinization, soil organic matter and nutrient depletion, acidification and chemical pollution.
Ms. Roseline Ngusa, Sokopepe operations director said that the social enterprise is leveraging on partnerships in order to develop stronger value chains and systems that lead to improved income for smallholder farmers.
She said that the social enterprise, which is supporting the agricultural sector in Kenya by offering market information and farm records management services is partnering with agro-suppliers, agro-financiers, public-private extension services providers, knowledge partners, market access actors and farmer groups.
She noted that Wanda Organic partnership would enable farmers easily access bio-organic fertilizer through its agencies in Meru County.
Achieving and maintaining appropriate levels of soil fertility, especially plant nutrient availability, is of paramount importance if agricultural land is to remain capable of sustaining crop production at an acceptable level.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sokopepe at 6th African Green Revolution Forum

By Bob Aston
The 6th African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), which concluded on September 9, 2016 at the United Nations (UN) complex in Nairobi, Kenya, featured Sokopepe among 15 Information and Communication Technology for Agriculture (ICT4Ag) innovations.
The landmark forum themed: ‘Seize the Moment: Securing Africa’s Rise through Agricultural Transformation’ aimed to advance the policies and secure the investments that will ensure a better life for millions of Africa’s farmers and families.
The open session on “the digital harvest: How to grow and sustain ICT4Ag solution” reviewed though a video documentary ICT4Ag Innovations, consumer feedback and steps made towards sustainability.
Dr. Agnes Kalibata,AGRA president addressing delegates.PHOTO/AGRF
Sokopepe director Mr. James Nguo, was a panelist in the session moderated by Ms. Carol Kyazze Kakooza, Chief Technical Advisor, and Chief of Party for Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW)-Market-led, User-owned ICT4Ag Enabled Information Service (MUIIS), Uganda.
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) supported an assessment of the business models of fifteen ICT4Ag solution providers in Kenya, Tanzania, and Ghana. The fifteen solution providers volunteered to share their successes and challenges in making ICT work for smallholder farmers during the forum.
The review of Sokopepe business model by Advantech Ltd indicated that the two year old company is already 25 percent towards sustainability.
During the session, policy makers, farmers, private agribusiness firms, financial institutions, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society, scientists, and other stakeholders watched a video of Sokopepe highlighting testimonies from farmers and value preposition offered by Sokopepe through its Farm Record Management Information System (FARMIS) innovation.
Mr. Nguo shared the successes and challenges faced by Sokopepe. He noted that data obtained through FARMIS would enable agriculture stakeholders such as County governments and central government, agro-input providers, providers of agriculture credit and development partners to get evidence of the status of agriculture.
 “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. Nguo.
The participants appreciated the efforts made by Sokopepe in Meru County, Kenya in addressing lack of accurate production, marketing and operational data in agriculture as well as limited access to finance by smallholder farmers.
The session reviewed examples of successful business models as well as how to improve uptake and usage of ICT4Ag.  The panelists also deliberated on what is hampering ICT4Ag solutions to grow and sustain.
The panelists agreed that challenges in business models such as lack of clear and unfavourable revenue models, limited view on cost drivers, and unwillingness by farmers to pay for services coupled with lack of clear business case for users usually lead to solutions that do not have robust revenue models.
The delegates concurred that sustainable ICT4Ag solutions have revenue models, diversified sources of income, organize regular customer feedback, have copyright protected technology and key performance indicators to monitor the business among others.
The forum realized a pledge of more than US $30 billion in investments to increase production, income, and employment for smallholder farmers and local African agriculture businesses.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Unlocking opportunities for smallholder farmers through financial inclusion

By Bob Aston
Increasing smallholder farmers’ access to financial and insurance services would ensure improved food security and increased incomes. Smallholder farmers need access to financial services to generate income from their agricultural enterprises, build assets, and manage risks.
Most smallholder farmers are unable to reach their potential due to difficulty in accessing financial products and services such as savings, insurance, and remittances that enable them to deal with crop failure, high cost of inputs among other challenges.
Smallholder farmer weeding
However, financial institutions cite lack of proper farmer records as a major constraint when evaluating farmers’ viability for credit.
Financial inclusion or inclusive financing is the delivery of financial services at affordable costs to sections of disadvantaged and low-income segments of society, in contrast to financial exclusion where those services are not available or affordable.
In Meru County, Kenya, Sokopepe, a social enterprise supporting the agricultural sector in Kenya by offering market information and farm records management services is taking an initiative to address the constraints by unlocking financial markets for smallholder farmers through partnerships.
The social enterprise through its Farm records management Information System (FARMIS) is keen to lay emphasis on building financial literacy for smallholder farmers as well as their financial capabilities. This is a critical investment as smallholder farmers are able to make informed decisions regarding financial products and services.
FARMIS provides a platform that enables farmers effectively store records and financial institutions can review farmers' performance over a period to help them make an informed decision about the farmer's capabilities to manage credit.
Through the innovation, farmers are able to track all their agribusiness enterprises, schedule different farm events and track all the expenses incurred. In addition, mobile financial services payments for produce have improved financial stability and security for the farmers.
Financial inclusion is a powerful tool for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and helping to ensure more banked farmers.
According to the 2016 Financial Access Household Survey, mobile money platforms have boosted the Country’s financial inclusion. However, women still have lower access to formal prudentially regulated services such as banks (35% for women compared to 50% for men). The report notes that a third of Kenyan adults report agriculture as their main source of income.
Sokopepe hopes to leverage on existing relationships within the value chains to ensure farmers access financial services sustainably while the financially excluded enjoy new possibilities.

Over the next few years, financial inclusion will continue to be a key element of Sokopepe’s commitment to increase incomes of smallholder farmers involved in agricultural production activities.

Friday, September 9, 2016

ICTs for sustainable development goals

By Bob Aston
The 2016 Global ICT Capacity Building Symposium themed:” Embracing capacity building opportunities in the digital era” that took place at Safari Park Hotel and Casino in Nairobi on September 6-8, 2016 pledged continued capacity building in Information and communication technologies (ICTs) in order to facilitate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The over 400 participants from regulatory authorities, academia, entrepreneurs, non-governmental organizations, and the United Nations representatives agreed to improve’ digital skills and empower countries to take full advantage of strong continued growth in ICT-related jobs.
Participants during the Global ICT Capacity Building Symposium.PHOTO/ITU
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) organized the Global ICT Capacity Building Symposium, while the Kenyan Government through the Communication Authority of Kenya hosted the event.
Mr. Francis Wangusi, Director General, Communications Authority of Kenya urged ICT stakeholders to work together to establish synergies in capacity building initiatives for greater impact.
Mr. Wangusi advocated for partnerships like the ITU centres as a way of ensuring the success of capacity building. He urged governments to increase investments in the development of ICT capabilities in order to mitigate against looming digital skills gap.
“As ICT skills become critical in the digital economy, there is need to develop some global benchmarks for ICT skills, as well as some tools for assessment, training, and certification,” said Mr. Wangusi.
Dr. Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU's Telecommunication Development Bureau called for continuous capacity building as the ICT sector is evolving very fast. He stressed on the importance of new skills requirements in the digital era and in achieving the SDGs.
The delegates implored universities to adopt new innovative teaching methodologies that are in line with the recent developments in ICT. The symposium urged governments to capacity build top-level executives on mobile technology and Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) to enable them support digital economy initiatives.
The symposium supported a strong legal environment that fosters long-term policies for the creation of capacity building programmes in ICTs. The delegates urged ICT stakeholders to integrate ICT capacity building in education. This would help provide educational content in new, better and more effective way.
The symposium awarded long-standing ITU partners like Cisco, the United States Telecommunications Training Institute (USTTI), and the United Kingdom Telecommunications Academy (UKTA). ITU also awarded Prof David Mellor for his personal contribution to building capacity building in the area of ICT while BRCK Education won the 2016 Young Innovators Award.
Two pre-events dedicated to "Capacity Building in Internet Governance" and "Regulators as Enablers and Consumers of Capacity Building" took place on September 5, 2016. The events enabled participants to map out strategies for capacity building in internet governance and to deliberate on innovative ways of regulation through upgrading of staff skills sets and training.
The outcome of the Symposium will provide strategic guidance to the national and international community on capacity building in the field of ICT, and on strengthening collaboration among the global ICT capacity building community.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Kenya determined to bridge gap between possibility and achievement in ICT

By Bob Aston
Deputy President H.E William Samoei Ruto has said that Kenya is determined to bridge the gap between possibility and achievement in Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The Deputy president made the remarks while opening the Global ICT capacity Building Symposium (CBS) themed:” Embracing capacity building opportunities in the digital era” that is taking place at Safari Park Hotel and Casino in Nairobi on September 6-8, 2016.
Participants at the Global ICT Capacity Building Symposium following proceedings
He said that the 2016 Kenya Economic Survey indicated that the value of ICT output expanded from 259 million shillings in 2014 to 280 million in 2015. In addition, this year’s projection indicates that the sector will contribute at least 8 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“There are young people across the country doing phenomenal work and rolling out important apps, websites and solutions that are transforming our society into an easier one to live, work and prosper,” said the Deputy President.
He said that ICT is the enabling sector towards the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals and Vision 2030 in Kenya. In addition, the more connected people are, the higher the likelihood of more innovation and transformation.
He noted that various sectors in the economy like finance, health, education, agriculture and the government are quickly embracing technology to enable dissemination of information, enhancement of service delivery and effective reach to customers. 
He noted that mobile technology has revolutionized financial inclusion with two out of three adult Kenyans being part of the formal financial ecosystem. This phenomenon has up-ended the traditional business models of financial institutions and retail outlets. 
“As a country, we have embraced ICTs because of our firm belief in their transformative power. Kenya's ICT sector is vibrant, ambitious, and innovative, and is underpinned by sound and progressive National ICT Policy,” said the Deputy President.
On his part, Mr. Joe Mucheru, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Information, Communication, and Technology said that the mobile and internet connectivity currently stands at 89.2 and 87.2 percent in the Country while more than 78 percent of Kenyans have access to 3G services.
He said that his ministry is reviewing the National ICT Sector Policy in consultation with stakeholders. The revised ICT policy will drive the pace of ICT innovations in the country and resonate with the rapid technological advances, changing public needs and evolving global trends.
He touched on the government’s initiative in producing quality ICT leaders in public service through the Presidential Digital Talent Program (PDTP). This year the project has overseen the recruitment of 400 ICT management trainees who are now working in both the public and private sectors.
He emphasized on the importance of the Digital Literacy Program (DLP), which aims to build 21st century skills amongst primary school students through use of digital technologies in education.
The Symposium has brought together stakeholders across 70 Countries to discuss trends and developments in the sector and their implications for human and institutional capacity building.
The outcome of the Symposium will provide strategic guidance to the national and international community on capacity building in the field of ICT, and on strengthening collaboration among the global ICT capacity building community.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Securing Africa’s rise through agricultural transformation

By Bob Aston
The 2016 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) kicks off in the United Nation Complex, Nairobi, Kenya on September 5-9, 2016. The landmark forum themed: ‘Seize the Moment: Securing Africa’s Rise through Agricultural Transformation’ aims to advance the policies and secure the investments that will ensure a better life for millions of Africa’s farmers and families.
This would help fulfill the head of states commitments outlined in the National Agricultural and Food Security Investment Plans (NAFSIPs), African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Smallholder farmers being trained on best agricultural practices
About 1500 leaders including African Heads of State and Government, Ministers, policy makers, farmers, private agribusiness firms, financial institutions, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society, scientists, and other stakeholders will attend the forum.
Africans have relied on agriculture for food, jobs, and economic growth for decades. However, despite the role and potential of African agriculture, transformative change remains out of reach for millions on the continent.
This year’s forum provides agriculture stakeholders with an opportunity to highlight the best elements of Africa’s agriculture, the changes that are allowing farming families to lift themselves out of poverty by embracing agribusiness.
AGRF has emerged as Africa’s leading platform that brings together a range of critical stakeholders in the agriculture landscape to discuss and develop concrete plans for achieving the green revolution in Africa.
According to Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the event marks a milestone moment over AGRA’s 10-year history, which has seen the achievement of tangible transformation at national levels and within the private and public sectors.
Conceptualized with a “less is more” format, the forum will promote optimal B2B engagement, big idea plenaries, interactive workshops, and empirical knowledge sharing.
There will be five thematic group discussions on finance; Inputs; trade; markets and the domestic private sector; agricultural infrastructure; technology and mechanization; and capacity development and women and youth in agriculture.
In addition, the forum will mark the inaugural launch of “The Africa Food Award.” The Award recognizes an outstanding individual or institution that is leading the effort to change the reality of farming in Africa-from a struggle to survive to a business that thrives.
Banking on agriculture for Africa’s future would help secure investments in agriculture thus ensuring a better life for millions of Africa’s farmers and families.

Follow the hashtag #AGRF2016 on Twitter and Facebook for live updates on the 2016 African Green Revolution Forum. Let us seize this unique moment to secure Africa’s rise through agricultural transformation.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Drought-hit Kenyan herders turn to new money-maker: hay

By Anthony Langat
MANDERA, Kenya - As a boy, Abdirahman Hillole Musa would spend long hours roaming the scrubland of Kenya's northeast with his father's cows and goats, often venturing into neighbouring Ethiopia and Somalia in search of fodder for the animals.
At the best of times, grazing land is in short supply in this arid corner of Kenya dotted with thorny bushes, but in times of drought it is even scarcer - with devastating consequences for pastoralists.
"In those days, we could lose a lot of livestock since some died on the way due to the long distance and lack of pasture," Musa recalled.
Abdirahman Hilole Musa standing next to the community facility.TRF/Anthony Langat
Last month, the 50-year-old was among a group of men arranged on the verandah of the area chief's office, away from the burning glare of the sun.
Engrossed in discussion, they discussed not lack of pasture for their livestock, but a more pressing matter: lack of storage for the hay they'd baled.
More than a decade ago, Musa, now 50, and other farmers in Bula Haji, in Mandera County, attended a government training course on crop irrigation where they learned how to plant, harvest, dry, bale and store hay.
They now plant grass to feed their animals during long dry seasons and during droughts, which are more frequent and harsher due to climate change. Some now make a living selling their surplus hay to the government and other farmers.
Good hay harvests have left them with an unusual problem: lack of storage.
Since learning about irrigation techniques, Musa, a tall, turban-clad man, has grown Sudan and Columbus grass and has never run out of hay for his eight cows and 40 goats.
"I plant maize, beans and vegetables which I sell but I store the grass to feed my livestock. They fatten and when I sell them they fetch a better price," he said.
Up to 1,500 farmers living along the River Daua are using irrigation to produce hay, according to the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), a state body set up in 2011 to coordinate drought management in arid areas.
"There has been huge adoption by farmers in the recent past and right now there isn't a single parcel that is not under cultivation along the river," Hussein Mohamed, the authority's county drought coordinator, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Every three months, the NDMA provides training on different farming methods on a government farm in Mandera. Guidance on crop irrigation is considered a priority subject, especially for farmers living along the River Daua. At least 100 farmers are trained at a time.
"This is an arid area and our people are generally pastoralists, so crop irrigation is new to them. They are taught to plant grass and make hay so that they can have enough feed for their livestock in drought," said Mohamoud Adan, who manages the government farm.
The drought management authority provides five kilos of seeds to first-time grass farmers in order to motivate them. When there is a drought, the farmers also receive fuel.
Some farmers like Abdi Mohamed Haji, 60 are already buying their own fuel and extra seeds. "I get five kilos from the NDMA and I buy five more so that I can plant on one acre," Haji said.
He has 400 bales of Sudan grass from his March harvest in a communal storage facility in Bula Haji.
Unlike Musa, Haji, who has seven camel and 50 goats, sells most of his hay.
"I do not need a lot of hay because I have camels and goats. I am looking to sell at between 350 shillings ($3.50) and 500 shillings ($4.95) a bale," he said.
The River Daua usually dries up between December and February. Recognising that it is during this dry season that stored hay is most needed, the drought authority buys hay from farmers at between 450 shillings and 500 shillings a bale to distribute to farmers in other parts of Mandera.
NDMA's Mohamed hopes that, in the long run, the agency will not have to distribute hay free of charge to those in need of it. With more funds he said, the authority would like to build dams across Mandera County, to help farmers practise irrigation in the hinterland too.
When the dry season ended earlier this year, Haji and Musa planted their Sudan grass and harvested it six weeks later. After the March harvest, the river burst its banks and flooded many farms.
But this time the father of 11 is optimistic he can recover and make ends meet by selling hay, not his animals.
"I do not have to sell my camels to pay school fees for my children. I make enough from selling hay," Haji said.

Article originally published at Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED).
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...