Thursday, January 19, 2017

Learning from our past and building on our achievements

By Bob Aston
This is an exciting third year for Sokopepe. We have welcomed 2017 with a strong commitment and enthusiasm. This year promises to bring a lot of success for Sokopepe owing to the magnificent work that we did in 2016.
Last year we showed that farm records are a powerful resource for Agribusiness. We have learned a lot during this period. Our conviction that farm records are key in agribusiness has only increased. We know that farmers want better lives for their families and brighter future for their children.
We will do our best to ensure that farmers achieve this by ensuring that by the end of the year we help 20,000 farmers realise increased productivity and profitability.
A farmer in Meru County being shown how to fill a farm book

For close to 2 years, Sokopepe with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Feed the Future Kenya Innovation Engine (KIE) has been piloting the Farm Records Management Information System (FARMIS) innovation to 5 and then 9 Sub-counties in Meru County.
Our dream is to make FARMIS the planning tool for devolved government structures in Kenya and working with partners to create a regional “food map” as part of the agricultural transformation.
Our focus in 2017
This year we will launch the second Agricultural Production Report (APR) for 9 sub counties in Meru using data from FARMIS. This year’s report will focus on more food enterprises compared to the initial report. 
Data from last year's report indicated that only 0.02 percent of small-scale farmers get loans from financial institutions to finance their farming enterprises.
The report indicated that farmers do not seek extra financing as they are unable to access optimal and timely inputs needed to maximise their farms potential. This made financial inclusion to be a key element in our commitment to increase the income of smallholder farmers.
We will continue to leverage on existing relationships within the value chains to ensure farmers access services sustainably while increasing the number of banked farmers. We know that financial inclusion is a powerful tool for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in promoting economic growth and ending poverty.
Sokopepe staff digitizing farmers records
Last year we partnered with 7 agricultural service/product providers to enhance good agricultural practices and to provide economical, effective and sustainable agricultural inputs to smallholder farmers. We expect to do more in 2017.
Youth unemployment has remained one of the most daunting challenges in Kenya’s socio-economic development. This year we want to make agriculture attractive to young farmers. Our FARMIS service provides the evidence base that youth farmers need to make an informed decision. We hope that we will convince many youth that they can make it through agriculture.
Women will continue to play a critical role in our work. Last year we worked with close to 8,000 women farmers. We expect the number to increase this year. We want to help women farmers to pull down the barriers that they face. We believe that women play a critical role in food production and in achieving greater food security.
We know that it is always difficult for farmers to reach and exploit a fair market for their produce. The lack of pricing transparency means that most farmers do not always get the best deal. We will continue to use SOKO+ to increase farmer’s access to market information. We are also exploring how to form partnerships that would help link farmers to markets.
We are always keen on knowledge sharing. We will continue sharing information using videos documentation, open learning days, farmer to farmer visits and articles aimed at farmers. We will also encourage more actors to join the agriculture transformation through our blog, newsletter and other channels.
Our phenomenal team in Meru County has already started the year on a high note. It is an incredible feeling to know that our team is still eager to work with farmers and ensure that they use farm records to increase productivity and profitability.
We know what we believe in. We believe that improving food security requires us all to join forces. We want partners and farmers to believe with us. Join us and let us work together to make a difference in farmers lives.
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