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    scope4SCOPEinsight, amultinational rating agency supported by the Netherlands Embassy which has rolled out a formula that identifies the strengths and weakness of agricultural cooperatives, link them to NGOs and experts for technical assistance and recommend them to financial institutions for credits.

    This is expected to revolutionize agricultural funding in the country especially for small holder farmers viewed as high risk by creditors, with statistics showing that only five per cent of all loans advanced by banks go to finance agriculture in a country whose 75 per cent of the population depends on agriculture as primary source of food. The initiative by SCOPEinsight intends to fill missing gaps in the administration and operations of small scale cooperatives in a bid to improve their credit worthiness and convince creditors to embrace them.

    According toSCOPEinsight’s Business Development Manager East Africa, Geoffrey Nyamota, the rating which is ongoing in several developing nations in the world will see more farmers access finances to improve on their productivity hence limiting threats of food insecurity in the world. He explained that most small holder farmers lack clear financial records, a key weighing scale creditors use while loaning.

    While rating a cooperative, SCOPEinsight experts tackle nine critical areas which includesupply, internal management, financial management, sustainability, operations and external risks with each of those areas awarded points ranging from 1-5. The highest mark is 5, medium is between 3-3.5 while less than three indicates low performance. After accessing a firm, the company then help those producer organizations/SMEs to identify suitable agencies or experts to give them skills in areas they perform dismally in order to improve their merits.

    ‘’A part from helping farming groups to understand creditworthiness of their businesses and develop their risk profile, we also identify their weaknesses and engage their developing partners in developing relevant curricula that address the gaps in production, financing and market linkages to help those firms improve,’’ said Nyamota. He disclosed that the agency is also working hand in hand with various creditors in Kenya in a bid to convince them to relook at their harsh loaning criteria that lock out many small holder farmers.

    Since its inception in Kenya four years ago, the company has managed to rate at least 300 farming cooperatives with most of them improving their profiles, access credits and increasing their productivity. One such group is KabuboniFarmers Cooperation inTharaka-Nithi. The farmers had relied on growing coffee for their main source of income, but when global coffee prices plummeted a number of the farmers neglected the crop and the sustainability of their supply chain was at risk.

    They identified an opportunity to diversify into dairy farming although many of the farmers already kept dairy cows, they didn’t have fascope2cilities to store the milk at the correct temperature. The 900 member cooperative also lacked credible financial and risk profile records to obtain credit. After accessing the cooperative’s strengths and weaknesses, SCOPEinsight provided them a detailed report highlighting areas where improvement was needed and recommended it to experts for assistance. It is from this initiative that Kabuboni managed to obtain Sh3m to set up a milk chilling plant.

    The move is expected to be a game-changer as many farmer organizations in Kenya are unable to obtain credit mainly due to lack of a standardized way to rate the creditworthiness of their businesses and develop their risk profiles. Nyamota explained that although most financial institutions have loan packages targeting farmers, those institutions have little understanding of agriculture is undertaken and hence fail to notice economic viability of farmers. He said that it was on this basis that SCOPEinsightis targeting most of those institutions for partnership in a bid to offer intermediacy services.

    The initiative by SCOPEinsight comes on the backdrop of a recent report by FAO that shows a global decrease in agricultural funding. World Bank lending for agriculture declined from $3.66 b in 1990 to $1.34 billion in 2000. Loans to agriculture accounted for 18 percent of World Bank lending in 1990s, but only about 9 percent in 2000s. Except for IFAD, all of whose lending is to agriculture, there was a substantial decline in total IFI lending to agriculture, both in absolute terms and for individual lenders. In Kenya, the government allocated a paltry 3.5 per cent of its budget on agriculture an indication of low financial confidence in agriculture sector which is ironically the country’s economic engine.

    A part from Kenya, the agency operates in several other developing nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Nyamota is optimistic that farmers can produce more food if the government and other stakeholders especially in financial circles change the negative mindset about the sector. The agency collaborates with other firms and NGOs including IFAD,IFC, Solidaridad, ICCOand local banks to assist farmers.

    The agency charges a fee to offer services to co-operatives. Nyamota explained that they are working on membership subscription module which will see co-operatives pay much lower fees.

    minugiMwangaza Farmers Group Organization (MFAGRO) a local organization in Vihiga County has introduced practical agriculture lessons in public primary schools in the region in a bid to impart farming skills to the young generation, making them to actively participate in food production.

    The practical lessons that include crop management, value addition and animal husbandry are set to fill the gap left when agriculture subject was pulled out of primary school curriculum in 2001 and is expected to rejuvenate agricultural practices in young people across the County.

    According to MFAGRO Project Coordinator Dick Morgan Ongai the organization gave intensive training skills to its members who join forces with teachers in respective primary schools to offer weekly lessons to upper class pupils (classes 4-8).

    For effective practical lessons, schools give demo farms measuring between 5-10 metres square depending with the size of school land to groups of pupils where they are encouraged to plant assorted plants. During the weekly lesson, trainers visit those demo farms teaching those groups from soil management to crop production skills. These pupils are also taught animal husbandry and poultry farming where they rear rabbits and chicken. The project reached 22 school and about 5200 pupils last year.

    At Munugi Primary School in Sabatia District, this education has been extended to benefit the local community. Demo farms have been erected in the compound where farmers from the neighborhood are taught various modern ways to improve crop and animal productions.

    Through this initiative, farmers in the region are winning the war against ‘purple witch’, a weed that has for long affected maize production in the region. They have for instance learnt that intercropping of maize with Desmodium curtails the growth and survival of the weed. The fodder is a legume and as a result their root produces chemicals that stimulate germination of striga seeds, but then prevent them from attaching successfully to maize roots. The striga eventually dies and the number of seeds in the soil is also reduced. They have also learnt about value addition and high value crops like soya beans which is now giving them more returns than traditional maize and beans. Initiatives by MFAGRO comes on the backdrop of a 2012 report by FAO that blame lack of modern agricultural skills to food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa. The report noted that most farmers especially in rural Africa where 75

    per cent of the food is grown are using outdated means hence prone to agricultural calamities like weeds, pests, soil infertility and diseases. Statistics by World Hunger shows a severe food crisis across Africa. An estimated 10 million people are faced with food shortages, mass livestock losses, and protracted drought-like conditions.

    In Kenya, close to 3.5 million people have been declared food insecure, with significant numbers facing catastrophic conditions after consecutive years of below-average rainfall that have resulted in one of the driest years since 1950. The statistics further shows that vast majority of hungry people live in developing regions, which saw a 42 percent reduction in the prevalence of undernourished people between 1990–92 and 2012–14. Despite this progress, about one in eight people, or 13.5 percent of the overall population, remain chronically undernourished in these regions, down from 23.4 percent in 1990–92. As the most populous region in the world, Asia is home to two out of three of the world’s undernourished people while one out of three people are undernourished in Africa.

    MFARGO is however optimistic that if stakeholders in the education and agricultural sectors in the country join hands in educating people especially the younger generation, food production will be increased hence slicing the ever growing hunger and malnutrition figures in the continent.

    As the revolution of digital camera and mobile phones with cameras was taking Kenyans into frenzy, One Peter Chege was getting worried day by day. Employed as a photographer in a studio in Kitale town, the revolution bug was hitting the studio negatively.

    Fewer clients were visiting the studio. His family’s expectations were growing higher every month his income was diminishing. One end month he walked home with Sh4,000 and told his family that it was his last salary as an employee.

    A neigbour saw him in despair and introduced him to Ngombe Safi self help group. The group is among the 61 dairy groups benefitting from SDCP interventions in the larger Trans Nzoia district.

    Peter had a cow but of low genetic potential and was not producing well. He embraced dairy as a business dedicating his time and attending all the SDCP trainings and practicing the lessons in his farm. A friend sold him a 3 month heifer calf of high genetic merit at Ksh 10,000. He paid this from profit gained from increased milk production after a management change of renovating his zero grazing unit, and addressing health issues which yielded a noticeable reduction on treatment expenditure.

    The same included tactical change of timing on feeding schedules, starting 6am. Milk production increased from 4 liters to 6 liters. Meanwhile Ngombe Safi had grown and was giving loan to its members. Mr. Chege's first loan from the Group of Sh5,000 was to renovate his Zero Grazing Unit, which controlled foot-rot ailments.

    The second loan of Ksh. 10,000 was to further better the unit and he contributed additional funds Sh 20,000 from milk sale proceeds to accomplish the work. The third loan of Sh20,000 was for water improvement. With added money as part of his commitment from the savings, he purchased a water pump and a tank.

    The fourth loan of Sh20,000 was for biogas development on the improved zero grazing unit. He further contributed Khs. 30,000, again from his savings from milk sales. The completed biogas is now fully operational. The farmer recounts on energy saving on wood fuel and paraffin of approximately Sh2,400 per month. He has developed a feed sufficiency strategy and with knowledge acquired during training, and with savings made so far, he bought a feed chopper and stores  hay and  silage.

    Mr. Chege's acquired heifer has now calved down and it gives him approximately 16 liters/day, at first calving, and like other members he supplies the group with an average of 25litters/day. This earns him over Sh18,000 a month, a much better income than his photography job.

    “His vision is to produce 50 litres of milk per cow per day in 10 years time when hopes he will have pure dairy cows pedigrees. Mr. Chege like many small scale dairy farmers who have seen great improvement in his dairy herd and milk production thanks to the Small Holder Dairy Commercialization Programme (SDCP).

    Through the programme many farmers who had lost hope in dairy farming are now trooping back as they see a ray of hope in the venture.

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