Trans Nzoia farmer group captures international maize markets

Kimitu farmers group in Trans Nzoia county has lifted the fortunes of its over 468 farmers by increasing production of maize and increasing farmers access to competitive markets.

Trans Nzoia county is among the largest maize producers in the country producing on average 180,000-270,000 tonnes per year out of an average national production level of 2.5 million tones therefore making it one of Kenya’s food basket, making it a primary contributor to the nation’s food basket.

Kimitu farmers group which is one of the largest maize producers in the county, came together under a common theme: “Unity of Purpose for Farming Success.”

The farmers group traces its roots to 1990, when an informal community association was established in the Waitaluk area with the aim of enhancing development through the provision of improved education. The group brought together resources from villagers and local authorities and with additional support from the Kenyan government, established a community polytechnic and a school providing both primary and secondary level education. Additional group development initiatives led to the installation of water pipes and the expansion of electricity to the community, all of which have greatly improved the quality of life for this predominantly farming community. However, the underlying need to improve farming and increase local incomes remained unmet.

In 2003 Kimitu Farmers Self Help Group was established as a formal, registered association with a primary focus on improving maize production and marketing within Waitaluk. Members of the association got support from the Kenya Maize Development Program (KMDP). KMDP, managed by ACDI/VOCA a global NGO, encourages and supports the formation of farmers’ associations as a means of improving the efficiency and participation of smallholder producers in the maize sector.

As a result of KMDP assistance, the association has brought together farmers from seven zones to strengthen the market position of maize producers within the area.

Kimitu Farmers SHG has a very diverse membership consisting of both large and small scale producers. Its leaders include retired professionals from various fields including an IT specialist and a veterinarian, as well as seasoned farmers. This diversity has greatly contributed to the success of the association, providing an opportunity for smallholder producers to learn and benefit through continued interaction with their larger and more commercialized counterparts.

“Association members are keen on seeking the best price for the maize, but also understand the need to secure markets and establish market linkages. By determining exact production costs per bag, farmers are better informed on acceptable prices for their produce, and are also better equipped to utilize available market information,” said Christopher Sang, the association’s director of finance. The group is expecting to market over 5,000 tonnes of maize following this year’s harvest. “We are currently in the final phase of negotiations with Unga Ltd. to sign a purchasing agreement for our harvest, which we see as a major achievement for our unity and organized approach,” added Mr. Sang.

Kimitu SHG also expects to benefit greatly from business linkages established as a result of their participation in maize promotion and educational events .

Members deposit monthly savings in the association bank account, and this has strengthened the group’s ability to negotiate and access credit facilities. As a result, the group is now able to buy fertilizer in bulk for redistribution to members. According to the association CEO, Mr. Anthony Kogo, the group is determined to achieve a high standard of competitiveness in the global market.

The group is now targeting to visit and host farmers from other countries with the aim of improving their farming methods and possibly identifying marketing opportunities within regional markets.