Farmers crack regional markets with groundnuts

Farmers in Ukwala area of Siaya county are counting increased earnings with a groundnut project that has shielded them from low yields and poor income from traditional farming of maize and sorghum while fertilizing their soils.

The farmers have always grown maize, sorghum, beans and millet for home consumption mainly in the form boiled snacks and a mixture of maize and beans. The little surpluses are sold to meet daily house hold requirements, such as sugar and paraffin. But a project by the Kenya Agricultural Productivity Programme has changed the farmers’ fortunes. They have had a mind shift on how they farm and have turned to ground nut farming as a business venture.

Strategy

The programme officials worked with the community members to form Common Interest Groups (CIGs) based on the farmers interest on enterprises of their own choice. Up to 94 common interest groups were formed. The Rajenya Farmers Group is one of the ninety four CIGs that were formed.

Through this group, farmersin Siaya have been introduced to the concept of producing groundnuts as a business under the guidance of two service providers, Ms. Beatrice Awuor and Mr. Charles Oloo. The service providers together with group members in a participatory planning workshop identified the weak points in the ground nut value chain that needed to be addressed.

Challenges identified included diseases, low yielding varieties, poor agronomic packages, lack of quality seed, low producer prices, lack of access to credit, lack of markets and market information, low adoption of appropriate technologies, poor pre and post harvest handling techniques that resulted in major losses, and lack of value addition technologies. Other challenges included low soil fertility, late planting by farmers as priority is given to maize, sorghum and beans as food security crops, and damage at planting by ants as well as bird damage at germination.

Kenya Agricultural Productivity Programme assisted the farmers with a grant that was used to procure a groundnut shelling machine, a roaster and a peanut butter making machine to process ground nut into peanut butter. The group produces and sells peanut butter. The Group has also acquired the Kenya Bureau of Standards certification and the bar coding and are selling peanut butter in the local supermarkets in the area. Profits range between Sh800, 000 and Sh2million from the sale of the peanut butter.

The groundnut story has been very successful and this has really promoted me as a service provider. I now provide services to other groups and even to NGOs on production and value addition. Siaya farmers have embraced groundnut farming as a business’ said  Mr. Oloo, the service provider.

Membership

At inception, the group had an impressive membership of 200 but when handouts were not forthcoming, membership thinned out and has stabilized at one hundred and ten with sixty four women and forty six men actively participating in groundnut production and processing.

The group is registered as Rajenya Growers Company and is managed through four sub-committees composed of elected officials. These are the executive, procurement, asset and finance sub-committees.

Almost every homestead has a plot of groundnuts as the market is guaranteed. Farmers outside the CIG have also adopted these technologies and are selling their produce to this company. The group members envision a farmers’ peanut butter factory capable of supplying the local and the international markets.