Kakamega farmers triple yields with interest free loans

Kakamega farmers are recording a tripling of yields thanks to an intervention that has made it easy for them to access improved farm inputs at interest free loans.

For many years, Farmers from Kakamega County have been engrossed in Sugar cane farming; supplying the many sugar factories littered in the area including the now limping Mumias, Nzoia, West Kenya Kabras among others. The sweet returns from sugar cane acted as a blindfold for farmers deterring them from engaging in other profitable agro based economic activities. However, the entry of agro based organization in the region is helping to rewrite the small scale farmers’ plight with many realizing that their full potential lies in other crops rather than sugarcane.

Eunice Gamba a sixty year old resident from Musejere village in Mumias is among these farmers that are now reaping big having been enlightened about their farms full potential thanks to One Acre Fund. Gamba had previously allocated 90 percent of her 5 acre piece land to Sugar cane. She was among the thousands of out grower farmers supplying their canes to Mumias Sugar factory. As fate would have it, Gamba’s frosty relationship with the Miller in ensued in 2012 December when after delivering her cane to the she was notified that her cane worth was less than the costs of production. That was not enough as the Miler demanded more cash from the farmer claiming that supplied inputs could not be recovered after the harvest.

After bitter and fruitless follow-ups, the farmer decided to call it quit and cancelled her contract with the Miller prematurely. Ideally, she was supposed to supply the sugar cane to the Miler for three consecutive harvests but the frustrations and lack of transparency that were emanating from the Miller’s management forced her to abandon the trade that she had carried out for over three decades. It was not making sense for me to toil on the farm and after these two painful years, Mumias Sugar slap me with DRs (debit receipt) meaning that for all that period, I was dedicating my resources into a loss making venture. Gutted to the core, that fateful afternoon, Gamba after failing to acquire a just hearing from the company, instructed her herdsman to cut the tender canes that were sprouting and feed it to the cattle.

She had made up her mind and was not ready for any more monkey business from the Miller. What she was not sure is how to go about her land or what crop to adopt because she had once tried doing maize in her remaining one acre but the returns were dismal. Luckily for her, she had heard about a village group affiliated to one acre fund and the members were realizing huge harvests. She approached the head and expressed her interest into joining and that is how her fortunes changed for better.

She explained that, once she was admitted into the team, One Acre Fund offered them inputs through credit that is repaid over an agreed period of time. In addition they also offer us extension services and advise us on the best crops to adopt for a particular region, soil and season.

According to the group leader in the village popularly known as Mama Safi, participating farmers receive a complete bundle of agricultural inputs and services on credit, including the delivery of improved seeds and fertilizer, training on how to maximize crop yields, and education on how to minimize post-harvest losses. “Loan package values range from Sh5000 to Sh12500 for new members while returning members have access to loans up to Sh18000 value.

“In 2013 after joining One Acre Fund, I resorted to planting maize on my 3 acre land that was previously under Sugar cane. With the seeds, fertilizer and knowledge from the organization, I managed to harvest over 40 bags of dry maize,” noted Gamba. This was an achievement to her since she had a surplus harvest to sell and help her clear the soft loan she acquired from the organization. The subsequent, seasons have been a success to Gamba and her friends who have enjoyed the benefits of One Acre Fund. “I am now planning to even increase the acreage of farming and at the same time intercrop the maize with Soya beans which also has lucrative returns in our area in addition to helping fix nitrogen in the soil,” she added.

She further acknowledged that unlike the conventional credit facilities from other financial institutions, the credit financing from One Acre Fund was different and flexible. We are given exactly what we want. The inputs quantity that you request for is what you get and therefore this makes everything run smoothly since hard cash is sometimes slippery. In addition, they are the experts as they have employed extension officers who have wide knowledge and expertise in their area of specialization and therefore they deliver to us the best quality. This further guards the ignorant farmers from the unscrupulous traders who sell them fake and expired farm inputs like seeds and fertilizers.

According to Mama Safi, their team has even devised better and convenient ways of paying off the input loans. “We are fifteen in the group. Every weekend, we meet in order to contribute to a member’s loan depending on the agreed amount per member.” By so doing the group relieves the individual burden of loan repayment as one is left with little percentage of the amount to clear. The farmers are glad that they got an alternative to Mumias Sugar since 90 percent of the members have worked with the miller previously and terminated the contract acrimoniously. “We are assured of our harvests every season and that is unlike pour previous sugar cane venture where we only realized the returns after two years! In addition, we no longer face the wrath of hunger because what we grow is what is partly consumed by the family,” added Mama Safi.