Stories tagged: Kenya

Emily Alpert: Can You Be Resilient on One Acre or Less?

Head shot_Emily Alpert copy 2

Our guest author, Emily Alpert, Deputy Director of Agriculture for Impact, concludes our series of blog articles on resilience published in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ahead of the conference Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security” 15-17 May 2014.

An acre is about the size of a football pitch. That might seem like a lot, but if your livelihood depends on it, it is rather small. In a good year, (that is with good seed, fertilizer and rain) a farmer can yield about 3 tons of maize on one acre. You might wonder why the 500 million or so smallholder farmers worldwide, who by definition farm on less than five acres (two hectares), farm at all. But my recent trip to Bungoma, Kenya, proved that there are ways these small farmers can be supported to build more robust livelihoods. The Montpellier Panel, Growth with Resilience report, for example, makes the case that people can be resilient with support for women and youth, diversified incomes and better nutrition. 

FOCUS ON RURAL WOMEN AND YOUTH

We talked to Fumona, a single mother and grandmother. Over 30 percent of rural households in Kenya are headed by women, and focusing support on rural women proves to have a positive impact on health, nutrition and education levels for the rest of the family, thus contributing to more resilient communities. Funoma has been receiving credit, inputs, training and insurance from NGO One Acre Fund. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9byUyq5g9nU Fumona planted more than just maize this year as an outbreak of Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND) could have destroyed her entire crop. Instead, with advice from One Acre Fund she divided her acre between finger millet, maize, beans and groundnuts.  She ended up with an astounding seven bags of finger millet (about 70 kg) from planting just a quarter-acre, or in other words, more than enough to feed her family and leftovers to sell.

DIVERSIFY LIVELIHOODS

Farmers situated near Kisumu in a small village called Siaya such as Timothy Okoth, his wife Jennifer and their 5 children, weren’t as lucky. With just a few goats and a couple of chickens milling about the village, it was clear that these farmers have very little to fall back on if the rains are too short or their crops are damaged by pest or disease. Last year they faced severe drought and only produced 6 bags of maize that simply was not enough for the 7 of them. Kenya 1 Diversity is key to resilience as an entire livelihood can be wiped out if you are reliant solely on one crop. When and where these options don’t exist, safety nets can catch your fall and help you to bounce back more quickly. Even though drought ravaged Timothy and Jennifer’s crops, they were relieved to be One Acre Fund members.  In addition to their package of seeds and fertilizer, they also bought an insurance policy.  The insurance pay-out turned out to be a very smart investment indeed; enabling them to stay on their feet in hopes of better rains to come.

SCALE UP NUTRITION

40 percent of children under five in sub-Saharan Africa are stunted. Adequate nutrition not only prevents irreversible damage to physical and mental abilities, but helps children become more resilient in the face of disease. To that end, the farmers we visited in Siaya are learning how to build a nursery for sukumu seedlings, a nutrient-rich kale variety. The sukumu will not only help to provide essential vitamins and minerals, but also a potential source of income. They hope that One Acre Fund will also help them access seeds for onions and tomatoes to eventually sell in their local markets. Kenya2  So can you survive on one acre or less? It’s not easy, but it is doable, especially when there is good weather. And when there’s not, one hopes that more farmers will have the access to and choose to participate in programmes like One Acre Fund. Resilience for farmers on an acre or less might still require cattle and kale, but making a wise investment never hurts either.

This blog article is part of an ongoing series on resilience being published ahead of an upcoming IFPRI conference to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in May 2014. Building resilience means helping people, communities, countries, and global institutions prevent, anticipate, prepare for, cope with, and recover from shocks, not only helping them to “bounce back” but also to become better off. This conference aims to help set priorities for building resilience, to evaluate emerging threats to resilience, and to draw lessons from humanitarian and development responses to previous shocks.

Supporting Farmers’ Organisations in Kenya to Empower Smallholder Farmers

As part of GCARD 2010, Farming First hosted a session entitled ‘Better Benefiting the Poor through Public-Private Partnerships for Innovation and Action.’ Within the discussions, our panel of experts addressed several case studies that present different ways that partnerships have helped to empower smallholder farmers around the world.

Edward Kateyia – IFAP/Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers

Empowering smallholder farmers in markets (ESFIM) is a programme covering 11 developing countries set up by IFAP, ECART, IFAD, Agricord, CTA and various local researchers in Kenya. The project’s overall objective is to generate demand-driven action research support to the policy activities undertaken by farmers’ organisations. By creating an enabling policy and regulatory environment as well as economic organisations and institutions, the initiative works to empower farmers to generate remunerative cash income from markets.

Promoting collaborative research, the study gave research support to nine national farmers’ organisations to help them produce a set of propositions that would help them voice their research requirements more effectively and help to initiate partnerships amongst research groups for executing their various activities.

A second phase of activities involved supporting farmers’ organisations with information to strengthen their research capabilities and access to knowledge. Through this, farmers’ organisations have an improved and increased capacity to collect, organise and exchange experiences, knowledge and information within an international network of researchers.

Kenyan Smallholder Farmers to be Offered Crop Insurance

Following a successful pilot phase for the new insurance scheme developed by UAP in conjunction with the Syngenta Foundation, Kenyan farmers will be able to purchase insurance against the effects of drought and excessive rain.

The program is the first of its kind. Here are more details:

Under the novel system, farmers register their purchases by sending an SMS to a phone number provided by UAP. The weather stations then monitor the weather and inform the insurance company of impending crop failure and subsequent compensation. Each farmer is then informed via SMS about the payouts. Costs are kept down through the use of automated weather stations which avoid the need for expensive field visits to farms to ascertain risk and loss.   This makes the insurance feasible for both the farmer and the insurance company.

The first pay-out to farmers affected by drought happened in Nanyuki last week. UAP Head of Marketing and Distribution Joseph Kamiri said that the company had developed the product in response to a great need identified while developing agriculture insurance products for the Kenyan market in conjunction with the Syngenta Foundation.

The early success of the programme has given it the go-ahead to be released across the country in 2010, said Rose Goslinga, insurance coordinator of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture in Kenya:

Traditionally, smallholder farmers have been totally dependent on the vagaries of weather. In times of drought they lost their crops and their investment in seed and fertilizer.  To make matters worse, farmers then had to pay for a second lot of seed to enable them to replant. But because they had not obtained a crop, they had little money, if any, to repurchase the seed.

In recent months, Kenya has been hit by severe drought, so this new programme will likely go a long ways toward helping impacted farmers get back on their feet.

Safe Use Training for Kenyan Farmers

In the 1980’s, as more Kenyan farmers moved to using crop protection products as part of their growing practices, a clear need emerged for safe use training to ensure these farmers used their products safely and responsibly. In 1991, CropLife International launched its first Responsible Use Pilot Projects.

In Kenya, an initial phase focused on “training trainers” in order to build a sustainable local base of knowledge and enable large numbers to be trained in safe use quickly. The project evolved over time and expanded, initiating the use of innovative methodologies to reach multiple stakeholders.  A radio broadcast, “Using Chemicals Safely”, reached thousands of listeners and became one of the Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation’s most popular shows. Textbooks, drama, and song played an important role in rural schools as the importance of educating youngsters was established. This was complemented by further training of farmers and retailers, helping many reach the standards set to meet Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) standards, an important certification for exporters.

The success of the Kenya pilot project has led to the training of more ‘master trainers’ who are now involved in training activities in several countries in the Africa and Middle East region. Partnerships have been formed in several countries, including  with IFDC, the United States Agency for International Development, GTZ, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization and Belgian Technical Cooperation to carry out these projects.

Creative Milk Business Fights Poverty, Links Rural and Urban Economies

Brookie

With its high-quality milk, Nairobi-based Brookside Dairy has a 40 per cent share of the Kenyan dairy market. Seven per cent of its 80,000 suppliers are commercial farmers and the remainder are small-scale producers.

The widespread lack of refrigeration facilities means that Brookside employs an army of delivery personnel, including more than 1,000 “bicycle boys” in the Nairobi area alone, to collect milk.

Brookside’s sales depots now stretch from the East coast to the shores of Lake Victoria in the West. Its training field days, each attended by up to 6,000 local farmers, help spread best practices in livestock management and provide networking opportunities for smallholders, many of whom are geographically isolated.

The business links rural and urban economies and offers a sustainable route out of poverty for many.  Additional benefits to local communities are health education programmes and funding for school, church and road building projects.

Dial “A” for Agricultural Markets in Africa

The West Africa AgriTrade Network provides information on the latest available prices from selected agricultural markets, buy and sell, news, contacts and other information required for commercial decision-making in all 15 member countries of the Economic Community of West African States.

Farmers can receive all this information via text message on their mobile phones.

For example, the Trade in Hand project provides daily price information for fruit and vegetable exports in Burkina Faso and Mali, while Manobi, a Senegalese telecom company, provides agricultural and fish price updates to subscribers.

Safaricom, the Kenyan mobile phone operator, also provides a text message service for farmers to access updates on commodities in markets direct from the Kenya agricultural commodity exchange. Traders can offer their goods for sale or place bids, as well as post short messages or questions on agricultural matters. Rural-based market information points help to extend the service to those farmers with limited access to mobile phones or computers.