Some 400 smallholder farmers in Kiambu, Nyandarua and Kajiado counties drawn together under Village Economic Empowerment, a village-based farmers’ cooperative in Limuru have built two cold rooms with different capacities to help the farmers who previously were selling their produce at throw-away prices to store and sell their produce while still fresh at favourable market rates.
One of the cold rooms which is at Kinari has a capacity of 80 tonnes while the other at Karangatha has a capacity of 50 tonnes and both are donor-funded.
The cooperative through a team of its agronomists approach the farmers in their farm areas where they talk to them and advise them on how to improve on their production with better farming practices using certified seeds and fartiliser.
“Previously our farmers were selling most of their produce to brokers who dictated prices but we have changed this narrative as they today sell directly to consumers thanks to these cold rooms,” said Elvis Githinji, CEO of the cooperative and one of the co-founders.
The farmers are grouped as per the crop they are interested to grow for hands-on training sessions with specific lessons organised by the agronomist. The practical classes are conducted in the fields where the crops are or grown.
They are trained then offered subsidised farm inputs which include fertiliser and seeds which are mostly sourced from Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO).
Upon harvesting, the cooperative through its business associate, Change Business Kenya buys the produce from farmers while the rest which are not bought are taken to the cold rooms and kept to preserve their condition awaiting the next buyer.
“Since we started working with the growers in 2012 we have been able to help improve lives of all of them having trained over 25 per cent of them and assisting each member to sell their produce at a profit,” said Githinji.
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The cooperative has also dug a borehole for Kajiado farmers and installed irrigation equipment that will enable the farmers practice bucket farming within their Manyattas.
“We are still unable to export the produce because of high standards needed by regulating agencies and the markets but once more farmers are trained and they can produce enough for export, we will start considering selling to other countries,” said Githinji.