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Cross-county benchmarking enables Machakos farmers increase production and marketing

banana market

A group of farm­ers from Machakos County is im­prov­ing on-farm pro­duc­tion and mar­ket­ing of their pro­duce thanks to in­ter­coun­try bench­mark­ing, an idea that has seen the farm­ers visit three coun­tries within the East Africa re­gion to learn from their fel­low farm­ers about good ag­ro­nom­ical prac­tices.

Machakos Farm­ers Am­bas­sad­ors which was formed in 2014 with 200 mem­bers has grown over time to over 500 mem­bers who renew their mem­ber­ship monthly by pay­ing Sh600 each and the rest who enjoy the cer­tain ser­vices of the group by vir­tue of being farm­ers or just re­gistered and not re­new­ing their mem­ber­ship.

To be a mem­ber, one must either be a small or me­dium scale farmer and be ready to pay a Sh1,000 re­gis­tra­tion fee,” said Sospeter Kenyingi, the chair­man of the group who is also a bee­keeper and an avo­cado farmer.

The group is also open to men, women, and youth who are will­ing to come to­gether to help each other im­prove in pro­duc­tion and bar­gain for a bet­ter mar­ket price for their pro­duce.

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So far the group has through the East­ern Africa Farm­ers Fed­er­a­tion (EAFF) vis­ited their fel­low in Rwanda, Uganda, and Tan­zania to learn from the new tech­no­lo­gies in farm­ing, new seeds, and ways to man­age and con­trol pest and dis­eases.

“EAFF is a non-polit­ical, non-profit, and a demo­cratic apex or­gan­iz­a­tion of all Farm­ers of East­ern Africa. The fed­er­a­tion has made it easy for us to meet farm­ers’ or­gan­iz­a­tions, groups, and as­so­ci­ations in their re­spect­ive coun­tries. All we need to in­form the fed­er­a­tion prior to our vis­it­a­tion are our areas of in­terest,” Said Kenyingi.

The group has gone to Rwanda twice, Uganda twice, and Tan­zania once and in all these trips the farm­ers fund them­selves by pay­ing their trans­port fees while the group’s treas­ury caters for other ex­pense.

An­gelina Katuku is one of the farm­ers who have be­nefited from the trips. She is a bee­keeper, paw­paw fruit, and poultry farmer. Be­fore he used to pro­duce just for fam­ily con­sump­tion and give out sur­plus for free to friends and re­l­at­ives but she has since learned from other farm­ers on how to mar­ket her pro­duce and earn more in­come.

“I can now pro­duce a full pick up of paw­paw fruits which goes at Sh5,000 at farm-gate price and Sh7,000 when I sell to our local open-air mar­kets,” said Katuku.

For Josephine Nzula who is an avo­cado farmer, she had never thought of the fin­an­cial po­ten­tial of the fruit until she came from one of their trips from Tan­zania where they on how com­munal farm­ing can help farm­ers im­prove on their pro­duc­tion and sales.

“I used to sell five fruits for Sh20 while bet­ter mar­kets offer between Sh10 and Sh20 a fruit. I cur­rently har­vest over 500 tonnes of the fruit which I take to Machakos Town and sell to traders from Nairobi who pays Sh10-15 ac­cord­ing to the size of a fruit,” said Nzula.

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Ac­cord­ing to Muia Kusenga, a re­tired ag­ro­nom­ist and a senior mem­ber of the group, he has learned that al­most every coun­try has spe­cific unique­ness and farm­ers’ or­gan­iz­a­tion.

“We real­ized that in Rwanda, for ex­ample, farm­ers are zoned for com­munal farm­ing prac­tices and for the pur­poses of earn­ing bet­ter pay for their pro­duce. This also cre­ated com­pet­it­ive­ness in the zones to en­sure im­proved pro­duc­tion,” said Kusenga.

Cur­rently, the group has ac­quired a space at Kid­hoy­oni Mar­ket built by the World Bank and yet to be opened. In the mar­ket, they in­tend to build a ware­house where mem­ber farm­ers will store their pro­duce and do their sales.

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