Kajiado targets mobile phone information platform to improve farmers’ yields and incomes
- Kamis organized the farmers into groups for training and equipment purposes.
- Ms. Meroi, a member of the Naisurwa Self-Help Group, says the lack of knowledge of market prices has been their main loss.
- His group is involved in growing tomatoes and has received training in climate smart farming practices.
For a very long time, Elizabeth Meroi, a farmer in Kajiado, was at the mercy of intermediaries.
Year after year, she invested resources in producing crops and raising livestock, hoping for a good return only for traders offering prices that could barely cover the cost of production.
It has been trapped in a system of exploitation which has seen over the years the welfare of farmers deteriorate while that of intermediaries improves.
This was largely made possible by the challenges farmers face, such as drought and lack of access to accurate, real-time market information on where to sell their agricultural products. The intermediaries made a murder while attacking their despair.
But that is set to change with the introduction of the Kenya Agricultural Markets Information Systems (Kamis), a project initiated by the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project (KCSAP).
It seeks to increase agricultural productivity and build resilience to climate change risks among smallholder farming and pastoral communities in Kenya in order to increase their yields and incomes.
Kamis organized the farmers into groups for training and equipment purposes. Ms. Meroi, a member of the Naisurwa Self-Help Group, says the lack of knowledge of market prices has been their main loss.
His group is involved in growing tomatoes and has received training in climate smart farming practices; agricultural research and seed systems; support agro-climatic, market, climate and advisory services, project coordination and management, among others.
“Apart from water for irrigation where we depend on a single borehole, preparing for a market is also a problem. We are left at the mercy of brokers to whom we are forced to sell, ”explains Ms. Meroi.
She shares that before joining the project, they would sell a case of tomatoes for between 1,500 and 2,500 shillings instead of market prices of between 5,000 and 8,000 shillings.
However, Kamis promises to end such exploitation by cutting the middlemen out of the value chain.
The mobile marketing information system integrates contract farming as a means of mitigating the risk of price fluctuations in agricultural markets.
The platform, according to KCSAP Kajiado County Project Coordinator Daniel Nyagaka, Kamis provides farmers with access to accurate and real-time information in terms of markets where they can sell their products by bridging the information gap .
He explains that not only is the marketing information system designed to help farmers identify marketing opportunities, but also to negotiate better prices. In reality, we hope that this will slow down the intermediaries.
Mr. Nyagaka points out that the system provides convenience to farmers, noting that they will be able to, from the comfort of their own homes or wherever they are, access information and know prices in the county or major markets as well as s ‘organize according to where to sell.
The information will be accessible to a number of value chain actors – from farmers to processors, consumers to pastoralists and agro-pastoralists – to improve their ability to plan with farmers.
“This is a big step forward in terms of farmers’ access to technology. When you know the price movement, you know the best season to produce, when the market is able to absorb what you produce, when the price is right, you can get good returns, ”says Nyagaka.
Eight county markets, including Loitoktok, Kimana, Namanga, Bisil, Kajiado, Kitengela, Kiserian and Ngong, have been prioritized for the deployment of the platform.
In each, several investigators were properly trained and equipped with electronic gadgets, in particular computer tablets with programs capable of relaying information to the Kamis database in real time on each market day.
In addition, the platform will also provide access to information related to agriculture such as weather forecasts, prices of inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, transport facilities, information on storage facilities and quantities and volumes traded in selected markets within the county, and across borders.
Kajiado County Agriculture and Livestock, CEC Jackline Koin, says the platform will allow farmers to make informed decisions about when to grow different crops and in what quantities to maximize income.
“The information system is in real time. This means that a farmer in Rombo can know the prices of foodstuffs, for example tomatoes in Ngong, Magadi or Namanga, ”Ms. Koin explains.
The CEC specifies that the desire to relay information in real time, which means that the collected market information is received by the farmers in real time.
This will then allow farmers to sell from an information point helping them in the process to negotiate and join together in cooperatives and transport their tomatoes to destinations where they will get better prices.
When better prices are not available in the county, Ms. Koin says the county government will work with other counties to find better markets.
“This is what helps create a food secure county,” she adds.
In addition, Ms. Koin points out that the system will also guide the decentralized unit in the development of laws, regulations and policies regarding agricultural and marketing activities.
“Policy makers, both at county and national government level, will benefit from the system through increased awareness of market realities, which will lead to a fairer and more efficient allocation of resources,” she says.
KCSAP is a government project supported by the World Bank with the aim of increasing agricultural productivity and improving resilience to the effects of climate change.
It has footprints in 24 counties including Kajiado, Nyeri, Kakamega, Isiolo, Busia, Bomet, Taita Taveta, Garissa, Lamu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Tana River, Tharaka Nithi, Laikipia, Nyandarua, Machakos, Kericho, Baringo, Uasin Gishu, West Pokot, Kisumu and Siaya.
For the counties, the project targets three priority value chains of dairy products and red beef, sheep and goat meat; and also tomatoes.
To support smallholder farmers, the project provided farmers with seedlings, various agricultural machinery such as improved manual scoops, forage choppers, motorized backpack weeders and brush cutters, to enable them to adopt modern farming practices.
“We were able to support 138 groups with grants to farmers worth 95 million shillings in two phases. Farmer groups are also supported by extension staff in terms of improving their productivity and changing their production systems, ”says Nyagaka.
He adds that service providers, extension staff and elite farmers have been trained on relevant technologies, innovations and management practices and are in the process of reducing these technologies to farmers.
In order for the extension staff to reach the farmers, who are in large neighborhoods, they were given four motorcycles to use in the neighborhood extension services.
“This will help constituency extension workers to be able to reach farmer groups and farmers on their farms. “
Ms. Koin says that since its inception in 2017, the project has made major strides in educating farmers about animal husbandry and agriculture.
She underlines that the project was deployed among self-help groups in six districts of Kajiado East, West and Center with the selection process based on strict parameters, including levels of poverty in the districts, vulnerability to climate risks, the absence of similar initiatives to avoid duplication, the presence of priority value chains, the geographic proximity of neighborhoods and the presence of technical agents at neighborhood level.
The farmer self-help groups also received training in modern farming techniques and business skills, including proposal writing and marketing.
In addition, CEC Agriculture adds that the county government has developed a Kajiado County Agriculture Bill to help address the issues facing farmers in the county.
The bill, she said, is before the Kajiado County Assembly and has passed first reading, but it has yet to go through public participation and second reading.
“We had problems with weights and measures when it came to packaging the tomatoes. This is a situation with which we have struggled a lot but according to the bill, there will now be specific measures for the cash registers because it describes what a petty cash is and what a large one is ”, explains the CEC Agriculture.
“We are awaiting the adoption of the bill early because that is what will solve this problem for our farmers,” she adds.
Ms Koin adds that the administration headed by Governor Joseph ole Lenku is setting up two tomato processing factories in Namilok and Rombo.
Namilok is funded by the county, and they have received an expression of interest from several investors who are willing to run the plant in question and the county government is in the process of identifying an investor among those interested.
The one in Rombo, on the other hand, is being built by Ewaso Nyiro Development Authority.
“Once all this is done, we know that we will have a lasting solution to the woes of the farmers,” she said.