Farm Concern International hosted 9 staff from Tear Fund on 17th January 2017 at Kabunge Commercial Village for hands-on lessons sharing on smallholder farmer commercialization impact.
The meeting was held in Kabunge Commercial Village Aggregation Centre with 33 farmers, 2 Government representatives- Ministry of Agriculture and Provincial Administration, 9 Tear Fund UK representatives from different countries and 3 FCI members of staff.
Farm Concern International, FCI with support from Bill and Melinda Gates foundation implemented Domestic Horticulture marketing Programme in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Malawi between 2010 and 2015. The goal of the project was to promote Traditional African Vegetables for consumption as well as for commercial purposes. It is in pursuit of this goal that Kabunge Commercial Village (CV) in Kiambu County, Kenya was formed in 2011 and capacity built on collective action in input purchase, marketing, saving and scheduling of production as per the market demands. Farm Concern International facilitated strategic partnerships between the Commercial Village and the Ministry of Agriculture, Provincial Administration, input dealers, financial intermediaries and business support service providers. The CV was also exposed to formal and informal market opportunities which triggered the collective action in marketing especially for the formal market.
The Commercial Village held an action planning activity for inputs where they evaluated the amount of inputs they needed for different value chains in the locality. The CV members were guided by an agro-vet staff and a Ministry of Agriculture Officer in the planning process aimed at understanding the best variety and prices of the products they required. They also engaged the input dealer on how to gain discounts since they were buying in bulk. The Ministry of Agriculture officer trained the farmers on pest and disease management and the importance of understanding the active ingredients in the chemicals used. He also emphasised the need for adherence to the stipulated post-harvest intervals and proper disposal of chemical containers. The effect of not adhering to the guidelines in chemical application on food crop was emphasised as a slow way of poisoning people.
An introduction of the participants was facilitated and the goal of the visit explained as being a learning forum on the FCI Commercial Village Model where both parties were to learn from each other with emphasis that the farmers had a lot to share especially from experience point of view. The chairman of the Commercial Village gave a brief overview of the Commercial village including how it was started, membership, the milestones, activities, impact, challenges and the solutions being developed to counter the dynamic challenges in the agricultural sector. “Farm Concern has become our eye opener especially on the production, consumption and marketing of Traditional African Vegetables. We initially didn’t know the value of TAVs and even the benefit of working together as farmers. We had groups for merry-go-round but we never thought of collective marketing and collective input purchase. We are now enjoying the economies of scale by aggregating our vegetables for marketing and collective purchase of inputs. Additionally, in the Commercial village everyone has a responsibility which motivates everyone to own the initiatives,’’ said the Chairman
Mr. Samuel Gitau, Kabunge Commercial Village Chairman, sharing the impact of smallholder commercialization under the FCI Commercial Village Model
Some of the Programme impacts shared by the farmers were increased capacity in paying school fees, purchase of water pumps, installation of electricity, construction of tanks, and installation of bio gas among others. Different subcommittees also explained how they contribute to the objectives of the Commercial Village. This was of interest to the Tear Fund delegates who were keen to understand every step and asked questions from each committee member which ranged from how the group dealt with conflicts, involvement of the youths, and impact of the group to the needy in the society. Several members gave their stories of transformation with one of the CV member Eunice Woiga elaborating how his income has changed after adoption of the TAVs and departing from the traditional crop; Irish potatoes. ‘’I used to earn USD 100 from half an acre piece of land after waiting for the Irish potatoes to mature but I am currently earning USD 30 every week from a quarter piece of land translating to USD 480 in the same four months,’’ explained an elated Eunice. The delegates were impressed with the proceedings of the forum and preceded to visit individual households to learn more.
Two farm visits were also conducted to showcase the impact of FCI intervention. At Mr Kimunya’s land the delegates witnessed the fruits of the Programme including biogas production chamber, water tank, renovation of a house and installation of irrigation kit which the farmer explained with enthusiasm that it was courtesy of the income from agri-business especially the TAVs that have a ready market. The farmer also took the delegates through his farm and financial records which attested to the huge income from the enterprise. At Mr Gitatu’s farm, the evidence of the transformation brought about by the Programme was all over including water pumps, scheduling of his production, installation of electricity and renovation of his house.
The delegates shared the lessons learned from the exchange visit especially the effectiveness of the Commercial Village Model in transforming smallholders, promotion of collective action, proper utilization of income generated from farming and sustainability of the Commercial Village post the intervention period.
FCI VISION : To have commercialized smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized & sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond