A group of farmers with land, knowhow and plentiful crops have come together to resolve the one problem that was hobbling their incomes, the lack of road access to their local market, clubbing together in the Kiamathaga division of Kieni Constituency in central Kenya to build their own feeder roads, in a move they say has transformed their earnings.
The farmers had long been grappling with the difficulty of getting trucks from their farms over rough and often impassable terrain. Mary Wakarari, a farmer who relies heavily on trucks to ferry her produce to Kagio market, 20kms from her farm, recalls the most agonizing time in her 5 years of agropreneurial life, when a truck she had hired to carry her produce to the market stalled 1km from her farm and got stuck there for a day and a half, which “left me with nothing, since most of my produces were perishables including tomatoes and mangoes.
I ended up giving them free, because there are two days when the market is booming and they couldn’t wait till the next market day,” she said.
Scenes like this have pulled together more than five farmers’ groups in the area to raise money to improve the roads connecting their farms to the main road. From foot paths, the farmers have cleared bush to pave way for the expansion of gravel roads made of small stones mixed with sand, silt and clay, which act as a binder.
Within 16 months, the groups has managed to make 4kms of new roads navigable for trucks by creating laterite roads, commonly known as murram roads. The roads now allow the movement of two trucks on the same road, which has increased the number of times trucks pick produce from the farms.
Although it has cost the farmers significant investment in building the modest roads, which required each of them to contribute Sh500 a month, the project has produced handsome returns for the majority of the farmers, who now record a doubling in the produce they are sending to the market.
“I ended up contributing Sh5,000 individually within 10 months, but I knew it would make all the difference for me, which it has. My produce and returns have doubled,” said Philip Wamae, another member.
Wamae has now even increased the acreage he is using for fresh produce, with the feeder road meaning more gets to market, but also that more large scale consumers are reaching his farm, from as far as Wakulima market, buoyed by the high quality , the area is known to produce, especially in potatoes, onions and tomatoes.
This new outlook compares with the previous bottleneck as the farmers even hired people to carry the produces on their back from the farms to the main road, up to 4kms away. This could see the farmers part with Sh350 - Sh400 for one delivery up to the main road.
To make a good sale a farmer would need to ferry around four sacks of the produce costing Sh1600 in carrying charges. From the main road a farmer would then have to pay a truck to ferry the goods 2 kms to the Kieni Market, at an extra Sh200 for each sack.
“We currently pay the truck drivers Sh250 from the farm to the market compared to the Sh600 that we were paying before and we are guaranteed that our produce will get to the market in time. The roads have done wonders to us and the good side is that we did it ourselves because government never considered the roads that were deep in the rural areas as important,” said Wakarari.
The solution is still not complete, say the farmers. The simple roads are made of stones that scatter everywhere as the truck’s wheel motion pressures the surfacing materials. This coupled with the heavy rain that intermittently pounds the area have conspired to slow down the gains that farmers are making in expanding the infrastructure.
But the groups are now moving to building gabions and drainage systems to channel the flooding water elsewhere.
Written by Bob Koigi for African Laughter
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