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Agriculture Co-operatives play a crucial role in enhancing productivity of smallholder farmers.

 

A number of farmers’ Co-operatives in Kenya have attempted to establish inputs distribution systems to enable their members access quality inputs.  However, most of these systems have weaknesses with lack of clear farm inputs purchase and supply structures.   This leads to low incentives for the members since the co-operative-owned outlets do not provide any unique offerings compared to other retailers in their locality.  By combining member demand, a co-operative would be better placed to provide improved access, variety, pricing, and delivery of products and services to their members.

 

KMT has identified 17 cooperatives with a combined membership of over 200,000 that sell agricultural inputs to their members.  Co-operatives often have several retail outlets and present a good opportunity to go to scale easily once they adopt good practices. KMT is supporting these cooperatives to understand the need to add value to existing services and be the go-to points for its members.

 

We are building their capacity to establish efficient systems for procuring and distributing farm inputs and new technologies to their members.  Through a combination of tactics, KMT is demonstrating value and the opportunity to grow their profits through repeat sales – repeat sales based on providing farmer members with new information, products and services which increase their yields and incomes.

 

Our research in Machakos County indicates that farmers who know which agricultural inputs would work best on their farm and how best to apply them increase their incomes by 70% or more.  For the Machakos Co-operative, average coffee yields are 60% below their potential; neither their inputs shops nor their independent local rivals offer farmers the most appropriate inputs.   They also do not provide farmers with much information on when and how to use the inputs, or how to spot fake products.

 

The Machakos Cooperative Union (MCU) is the first partner co-operative that KMT is engaging.  MCU, with a membership of 42,000 smallholders mainly grow coffee, mangos, cereals and flowers.   Through this partnership, MCU is investing in training and motivating its inputs retail staff to offer a professional service, giving farmers correct information on inputs.

MCU

                                                     KMT Staff engage MCU employee

Another key support area is linking MCU with a range of important inputs manufacturers and suppliers.  Through this initiative, farmers are getting direct education on new products, credible information on appropriate and safe inputs use in order to improve their productivity and quality of life. Recently, KMT linked MCU to Athi River Mining, for the supply of limed ‘Mavuno’ fertilisers, which will enable MCU’s farmer customers to improve their yields and incomes.

 

MCU farmer members, like other smallholders in Kenya rely heavily on rain fed agricultural production. In recent years, changing rainfall patterns, and sometimes failure of rains has greatly affected production and often threatened food security. This has translated into low production, less intake at the co-operative society and consequently a reduction of turnover.

 

Under a grant from a Swedish NGO (We Effect), MCU is advocating for shade trees planting in coffee fields for climate change mitigation. The aim of the shade trees is to conserve soil moisture and prevent soil erosion thus enhancing coffee tree productivity and prevention of soil degradation.

 

Key success areas

Key inputs retail staff have been trained on customer service, promotions, consumer education, and useful skills to provide key agricultural information to farmers.

 

Through the promotional and farmer education events, co-operative members are beginning to access the“Mavuno Coffee” a specific lime blended fertiliser that is set to boost coffee productivity in the County.  By end of 2016, we expect that over 10,000 farmer members will be receiving practical learning through the demonstration plots being set up by Mavuno fertiliser.

 

Additionally, MCU managers are becoming more capable in negotiating with inputs manufacturers and have started to partner with them to promote and sell better inputs.