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.