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How former tailor grew to become a regional trader in sorghum

Beatrice Nkatha Demostrates how mechanism has improved Sorghum delivery

Beatrice Nkatha, Demostrates how mechanism has improved Sorghum delivery.

A former tailor who found the work not giving her adequate returns decided to abandon it and venture in sorghum business in 2009, a business which has seen her trading in over 1,000 metric tonnes of the crop in Kenya and Tanzania hence meeting her needs.

According to Career Point Kenya, an online job market place, tailors in the formal sector earn between Sh14,000-16,000 basic salaries per month while those in the informal sector can earn even much less than that.

On seeing the meagre income from the sector, Beatrice Nkatha started selling grain using “goro goros” (2kg tin cans) to make ends meet.

“I had no money and no experience when I started,” she said. “But I was determined. At no time did I think it would not work for me after seeing others were excelling in life”.

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Nkatha would later join a group of women who were buying cereals in bulk and retailing the same in Meru. Soon, she was providing leadership. She became a trustee, managing and maintaining a rented bulking store.

“My first breakthrough came when the women decided to leave the business and I took it over despite the low income it could provide,” said Nkatha.

With determination she began leasing land and engaged in farming to improve her earnings. In three years, she had enough funds to start growing the business.

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Then happened a turnaround in her business when she met Africa Harvest Biotechnology Foundation International (Africa Harvest), a non-profit foundation formed in in 2002 and connecting African farmers to markets among other mandates.

“This was a great link,” said the Tharaka Nithi farmer. The organization had introduced commercial sorghum production in the area in 2009. She got introduced to regional trade of sorghum grain in Kenya and Tanzania.

“I later became a full agent for East African Breweries Limited (EABL), working closely with Africa Harvest, which was supporting farmers with agronomy and seeds”.

Her continued hard work and good performance resulted with the project assisting her in identifying where to purchase a sorghum thresher. She also received advice on how to finance the purchase.

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Beatrice was the Aggregator of the Year 2011-2012 for delivering 1,450 metric tonnes to EABL.

“I believe sorghum has changed the lives of other farmers, as they are now able to pay school fees,” she said.

Buildings have popped up in the area and the youth have embraced farming, having tasted good money from the sale of sorghum.

Beatrice is one among the five aggregators identified to provide market as well as backward linkages (in the future) for farmers involved in the sorghum for regional trade project in Kenya and Tanzania.

The project funded by UNDP-AFIM catalytic fund for regional agri-business value chain development. Its goal is to improve food security and economic potential for smallholder farmers through participation in regional Sorghum.

The project targets 2,000 smallholder farmers, 10 micro and small enterprises in Kenya and Tanzania.

Africa Harvest is the project’s implementing partner. The two organizations have refined the aggregator model, a platform upon which future interventions along the value chain will accelerate commercialization and linkage to regional trade in sorghum grain.

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