Research shows that horticultural crop production sector provides twice as much job opportunities per hectare compared to cereal crop production (Ali et al., 2002). The move from cereal production towards high-value horticulture crops is an important contributor to employment opportunities in developing countries (Joshi et al., 2003).
The horticultural commodity chain is also longer and more complex than the cereal crop and as a result job opportunities are more abundant (Temple, 2001). It is on the basis of these findings that Farm Concern International (FCI) and World Vision Kenya with the support from World Vision Australia initiated the Semi- Arid Region Commercialization Programme, a 33 month grant project in two Integrated Program Areas (IPAs); Kalawa and Mwala, in Eastern Kenya.
In Mwala, the project targeted four administrative locations; Mwala, Makutano, Vyulya and Mango while in Kalawa, three administrative locations; Ndauni, Kathulumbi and Athi were covered.
Semi- Arid Region Commercialization Programme is a food security and economic empowerment initiative that focuses majorly on crops and livestock value chain development. A key component of the Programme is household economic development through adoption of improved technologies and expanded financial drivers for food and livelihood security.
The purpose of the Semi- Arid Region Commercialization Programme is to enhance and sustain economic impact by facilitating access to existing and new profitable markets through commercialization, women empowerment and savings mobilization.
The project has so far increased incomes through market access and enhanced trade partnerships, shared market opportunities in each IPA with target beneficiaries, facilitated formation of 10 Commercial Villages (5 in each IPAs) and has developed marketing strategies for prioritized value chains. In addition, the project has also prioritized markets, buyers and linkages coordinated with at least 20 buyers for 10 Commercial Villages.
Other major achievements of the Programme include conducting a market assessment in Mwala and Kalawa and prioritizing tomatoes, green grams, watermelons and onions as the key value chains. The project was able to register 71 formal and informal traders, conducted Commercial Village Business Forums resulting in sales worth USDs 133,251.0, mobilized savings worth USD 28,702.1 with 62 saving schemes being linked to Vision Fund, Wamunyu Financial Services and Equity Bank Foundation.
The intervention also enhanced organizing and conducting of a market trade fair in partnership with International Centre for Agroforestry (ICRAF) and the County Government of Machakos.
The trade fair brought together participants from Machakos County and beyond including over 540 smallholder famers from Machakos County, development partners (USAID and World Vision), government representatives (Ministry of Agriculture), and 35 exhibitors of input supplies and farm implements.
FCI VISION : To have commercialized smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized & sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond