Smallholder farmers account for about 80 per cent of Kenya’s farming community. The yield from their small farms hinders their access to markets.
But these farmers can secure and sustain markets if they work together in groups. This way, they can enjoy economies of scale.
In groups, farmers can set standards of production and other operations as required by their intended markets and, therefore, ensure quality produce.
Still, they can aggregate produce in order to meet quantity demands for available and desired markets.
The Market Access Upgrade Programme-Kenya (Markup-Kenya), supported by the European Union (EU), has been training farmers on group dynamics and good governance.
Markup-Kenya is implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido) in partnership with the government and the private sector. The programme aims to promote competitiveness and market access for Kenyan produce, including selected fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs and spices.
The initial training was carried out in Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Busia, Siaya and Homa Bay counties. More training is planned in the rest of the 12 counties in which Markup-Kenya is implemented. These include Nakuru, Kajiado, Uasin Gishu, Machakos, Makueni, Taita Taveta and Embu.
Work in groups
Speaking when he officially opened training in Trans Nzoia, Markup-Kenya national coordinator Maina Karuiru encouraged farmers to work in groups.
“There are many markets for your produce, but you can only sustain them by working in groups,” said Mr Karuiru.
He encouraged young people to embrace agribusiness as a way of earning income and producing safe food.
In Trans Nzoia, Markup-Kenya is supporting passion fruit, snow peas and French beans value chains.
For passion fruit, Mr Karuiru noted that the programme will not only focus on market access but also pests, diseases and clean planting materials after Markup-Kenya found these as some of the major challenges facing this value chain.
“We will work with tree nursery operators and train them on how to produce clean planting materials so that farmers can access seedlings which are resistant to pests and diseases,” said Mr Karuiru.
He added that this will be done in collaboration with top researchers from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro).
Kenya has numerous opportunities in international markets and the government wants to expand these opportunities to grow the country’s economy, including the rural economies, which are highly driven by smallholder farmers.
Speaking to farmers’ groups in various counties, Tobias Okello, the government representative and the national focal point for Markup-Kenya, hailed farmers for their key contribution to the growth of the economy.
“The government recognises farmers as key drivers of the economy and that is why we are working with partners such as the EU to ensure we empower stakeholders in the agriculture sector,” Mr Okello said.
He urged farmers to be vigilant in exploiting market opportunities locally and internationally so that they can earn more and improve their livelihoods.
Trainees expressed optimism that they would apply the new knowledge in running their groups better to thrive not only in agribusiness but also other aspects such as leadership and management.
“I now know how I can govern a group. According to the principles of governance which I have learnt, leaders should lead by example,” said Henry Watata, a farmer from Homa Bay
Another trainee, Lilian Achieng’, said she had learnt about the qualities of good leaders and will apply them not only in her farmers’ group but also others in which she is a member.
“Having also realised there is a market for groundnuts, I will also upgrade production in terms of both quality and quantity,” she said.
Modules covered during the two-day training for each county include registration and formation of farmers’ groups, understanding farmers’ groups and cooperatives, benefits of such groups, communication and conflict management.