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Village-based farmers’ coop trains and provides farm inputs and ready market for smallholders

farmers sorting potatoes
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Village Economic Empowerment’s farmers sorting potato. The farmers are trained in the best farming practices for higher production and income. Photo courtesy.

It is not farming as usual for more than 400 smallholder farmers in Kiambu, Nyandarua and Kajiado counties. The farmers have embraced the use of high yielding seeds, correct use of fertiliser and access to water and market thanks to Village Economic Empowerment, a Kenyan village-based cooperative that works with the farmers to improve their yields and incomes.

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.

“We do not force farmers to work with us but we visit them and sell to them our ideas and agendas. Most of them have accepted to become our members by a free registration to be able to enjoy our services,” said Elvis Githinji, CEO of the cooperative and one of the co-founders.

These farmers are then 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.

Elvis halping farmers receive certified seeds

Mr. Elvis Githinji (right) issuing certified seeds to farmers of Village Economic Empowerment cooperative. Photo courtesy.

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Potatoes, for example, have 16 lessons for farmers to go through while vegetables have shorter training lessons.

After training farmers get subsidised farm inputs which include fertiliser and seeds which are mostly sourced from Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) by the cooperative on behalf of the farmers.

“Since we started working with the growers in 2012, we have realised that most of them still depend on the traditional farming methods which no longer benefit them in terms of production and marketing hence the training and giving them the access to clean planting materials to up their yields and income,” said Elvis.

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Once the produce are mature and ready for market, the cooperative through its business associate, Change Business Kenya buys the produce from farmers hence providing ready market for them.

“On this, we have several market linkages for our growers to ensure they are not stranded with their produce, a situation that may create chance for exploitation by unscrupulous middlemen.”

Already the cooperative has a cold storage at Kinari, Kiambu with a capacity of 80 tonnes and a seed curing storage at Karangatha with a capacity of 50 tonnes.

It has also dug a borehole for Kajiado farmers and installed irrigation equipment that will enable the farmers practice bucket farming within their Manyattas.

farmers tending to their kales

Village Economic Empowerment’s farmers weeding their cabbage and potato farm. Photo courtesy.

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So far the cooperative has trained 25 per cent of its farmers and once all are trained, it will start thinking of exporting the farmers produce.

“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 Elvis.

The cooperative gets its funding from various donors.

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