More than 350 potato farmers in Nyandarua have formed groups to market their produce in a bid to improve their bargaining power, handling, and storage.
In 2017, farmers lost Sh19.7bn worth of Irish potatoes due to poor handling and storage, transport and fungi attack according to the 2018 economic survey report released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in April this year.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, cooperatives provide over 100m jobs worldwide with more than one billion members. Cooperative societies play an important role in reducing poverty levels, improving food security and generating employment opportunities.
Farmers joining coops therefore can triple their income. In this, the societies support small agricultural producers and marginalized groups such as young people and women. They empower their members economically and socially and create sustainable rural employment through business models that are resilient to economic and environmental shocks.
The farmers will now sell their potatoes in 50kg bags from the previous 110kg bags with the produce being bought by marketing agents through public auction in designated markets.
The produce will be inspected by the Agriculture and Food Authority officials to ascertain the quality and improve the livelihoods of farmers and consumers along the Irish potato value chain.
Joining the cooperative society is free and farmers are assisted in the entire registration process by officials from the Agriculture and Food Authority, the regulator of the agriculture sector in the country.
The total number of societies and unions registered grew by 7.4 per cent, from 18,573 in 2016 to 19,951 in 2017 according to the 2018 economic survey report.
A total of 67 multi-produce societies were registered in 2017 while the number of dairy societies increased by 11.4 per cent over the same period. There has been a sustained growth in the number of non-agricultural societies since 2014. The number of Savings and Credit societies grew by 4.8 per cent while that of other non-agricultural societies rose by 19.3 per cent in 2017. One agricultural union was registered in 2017.
In this, the total value of sales from co-operative societies went up by six million shillings to Sh10.5bn in 2017.