Enhancing Livelihoods of Smallholder Farmers aims to provide Smallholder Farmers in Rarieda sub-County, Siaya County, Kenya with enhanced economic opportunities through capacity building to increase yields and establish commercial farming villages and a Farmer’s Association. In Rarieda Sub-County, most Smallholder Farmers own less than ½ acre of land for their farming needs. Water is also a scarce resource in the area, which makes it challenging for farmers to maintain crops, especially during the dry season. Other challenges Smallholder Farmers face include lack of knowledge about high-yielding, drought and pest resistant crops; lack of knowledge in farming as a business; lack of access to credit from financial institutions; poor post-harvest management leading to post-harvest losses; and being too small to take an active role in the formal market economy due to limited economies of scale.
To increase yields and improve economic opportunities for Smallholder Farmers, the project will build farmer’s capacity through a holistic range of projects including:
- Uniting smallholder farmers into a farmer’s association and commercial farming villages
- Introduction of individual and group-based water pans for crop irrigation
- Improve crop production by introducing drought and pest resistant crops
- Enhancing post-harvest preservation techniques
- Training farmers to see farming as a business using the Street Business School (SBS) model.
Uniting smallholder farmers into a farmer’s association and commercial farming villages
Bringing farmers together to form associations will increase their access to extension and training opportunities, farm inputs, markets, finance, technologies, and equipment in public and private agribusiness partnership opportunities. Establishing commercial farming villages will create avenues for enhanced community on-farm and off-farm rural entrepreneurial success.
Farmer-Associations is a way to assist Smallholder Farmers to increase production and income by linking them with financial institutions, agricultural inputs, information, and output markets. The idea behind the association is to use their collective action as a power in the formal market economy. The association also empowers its members economically and socially by involving them in decision-making processes that create additional rural employment opportunities or enable them to be more resilient to economic and environmental shocks. Local Smallholder Farmer-associations are also benefitting local institutions such as schools, hospitals, and universities, so they do not need to purchase food products from big industrial suppliers for high price, instead, they can purchase their products from the local farmer's associations, and by that support local community members and pay lower prices. Several farmers associations join forces to form a Commercial Village, catalyzing vibrant rural economy through organized farmers as partners in agribusiness.
Introduction of individual and group-based water pans for crop irrigation
Farmers training will be engaged to establish individual and group-based water pans for crop irrigation. Excavated water pans are small reservoirs, about 1 m to 3 m deep, usually dug of-stream with raised and compacted banks all around. They are constructed to collect and store runoff water from various surfaces including from hillsides, roads, rocky areas, and open rangeland. The water catchment system will be structured as water pans either as per an individual household or as per a group of neighboring households to harvest the rainwater and water runoff. The pans will be of different sizes depending on the size of land available. Each pan is intended to hold between 200 to 500 cubic meters of water. Manual water pumps will then be used to pump the water to the farms for use as irrigation. The pans will be constructed on the lower end of the farm so that water runs into them by gravity. The lining of the dams will be compacted so that they can hold the water since soils in the area are clay.
Introduction of drought and pest resistant crops
To improve crop production, we will work closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research organization (KALRO) to assure selection of crops that have economic value that are adapted to our agroecological zone. This will include crops and varieties that are drought resistant, fast maturing and resistant to pests and diseases. Current crops farmers grow include Maize, Beans, Green-Grams, and Groundnuts, while farmers who are located closer to Lake Victoria also grow Tomatoes and other vegetables. However, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) had tested the area for fast maturing and resistant to draught pests and diseases crops and found that the best crops for that purpose are Finger Millet, Sorghum, Groundnuts, Cassava, Soya Beans, Nerica Rice, Cotton, and Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato. Hence, the project will introduce these crops to farmers and train them on crops variety, selection and agribusiness management.
Enhancing post-harvest preservation techniques
Training will also be carried out on post-harvest handling practices and treatment. These practices include harvesting, precooling, cleaning and disinfecting, sorting and grading, packaging, storing and transportation to maintain quality and extend shelf life. In addition, we will build and train farmers on how to construct charcoal coolers that will be used to hold the crops for one to two weeks before they are sold. The charcoal is low-cost refrigeration system that can be constructed in a smallholder farm since they don't require the use of electricity, and they reduce temperature to about 10 to 15 degrees centigrade to increase the shelf life of their produce. Farmers will also be trained on value addition through sorting, packaging, and processing of crops to make sure they earn more from their products. Some examples include careful sorting and nice packaging of Green-Grams, processing of groundnuts into peanuts, and drying of horticultural crops such as Tomatoes or producing tomato paste and sauces, all of which will allow a farmer to store them for a longer period of time and to sell them for higher prices.
Training farmers to see farming as a business using the Street Business School (SBS) model
Street Business School (SBS) is an entrepreneurship training that takes cohort through an evidence-based six-month program designed to train and mentor youth and community members to succeed as entrepreneurs. Throughout the six-months, training focus on breaking down traditional stereotypes, building confidence, and practical-simplified business concepts on market research, business plan development, capital procurement, and bookkeeping. The program begins with the participants attending three consecutive sessions that challenge and catalyze a shift to get out of their comfort zone and learn the principles of starting small, identifying a business opportunity and finding capital. This stage sparks imagination and inspires action. The participants then learn bookkeeping and money management skills and create their business plans based on the knowledge gained. Coaches and peer-entrepreneurs visit the participants and provide one-on-one mentoring and guidance which provides both customized and business advice, and meaningful encouragement so that each participant builds confidence to believe in her/his own ability to succeed. The participants learn about marketing and get the hands-on skills they need to make their business thrive.