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Thursday, 12 May 2016

Impact of procurement governance for Home Grown school feeding

By Bob Aston
The five-year Procurement Governance for Home Grown School Feeding (PG-HGSF) project by the Netherlands Development Organization-SNV is finally coming to its conclusion. The organization organized for a stakeholders Workshop on May 10, 2016 at IBIS Hotel in Nanyuki, Laikipia County to brief them on the impacts, challenges, and lessons learned during the implementation of the project.
Aside from SNV, other stakeholders included representatives from Laikipia Produce and Marketing Cooperative Society, Mount Kenya Produce and Marketing Organization,  Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), Kilimo Biashara Promoters, and head teachers.
Mount Kenya PMO receiving a moisture meter from Mr. Makongo during the workshop
PG-HGSF was a 5-year program that SNV was implementing in Kenya, Ghana, and Mali. SNV USA launched the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) funded project in 2011.
Mr. David Makongo, SNV Advisor-BMGF Project, and PG-HGSF Kenya said that the organization aimed to develop a more inclusive and responsible relationship between smallholder farmers through farmer based organizations and school feeding buyers in Kenya.
“SNV and its partners worked hard to remove barriers to smallholder farmer’s inclusion in the school meal programme. Initially most farmer groups were not benefiting but this is now changing,” said Mr. Makongo.
He noted that 815,000 pupils drawn from 2,114 primary schools benefit through Home Grown School Meals (HGSM) programme annually. This has incentivized pupil enrollment and retention across the County.
The Kenyan government introduced the Home Grown School Meals (HGSM) programme in 2009. The programme has the dual objectives of improving children’s participation in education while simultaneously supporting local agricultural production by procuring foodstuff from local smallholder farmers.
Notable achievements of the PG-HGSF project included 6,513 farmers, 3935 male and 2,578 female drawn from 11 farmer based organizations managed to sell directly to schools. The project also helped 3,050 farmers to sell their cereals through structured demand (SD) markets. The markets by public or non-profit entities have a predictable and reliable demand for food products.
The project enabled SNV to pilot interventions in procurement, supply chain, and social accountability processes that helped remove obstacles to smallholder farmer’s access to school feeding markets. Between 2013 and 2015, the project oversaw the completion of 227 social audits.
“Social accountability helped in creating a more transparent and participatory assessment of the health and performance of school feeding programmes,” said Mr. Makongo.
In Laikipia County, the program addressed the challenge of lack of data for effective planning and decision making in education and homegrown school feeding programme through an online data management system.
Mr. Makongo said that SNV developed and expanded Grain Business Hubs as farmers lacked capacities in finance, storage, and management skills. The hubs strengthened the linkages and capacities of farmer based organizations. This enabled Laikipia Produce and Marketing Cooperative Society and Mount Kenya Produce and Marketing Organization to sell grains more efficiently and profitably.
“HGSM programme is a viable market for farmers as the quantities required are manageable. Most schools have also indicated than quality of cereals from farmers is usually higher than from other traders,” said Mr. Makongo.
The workshop also enabled the two farmer based organizations to share experiences, challenges and deliberate on how best they can take advantage of the homegrown school meal market.
The two groups learned that despite the conclusion of the SNV project, opportunities for smallholder farmers still exist and the groups can still take a stronger role in their local school meals programmes by applying for tenders from local primary schools.
The two farmer groups have managed to supply cereals to five schools namely Chumvi, Sanga, Lukusoro, Olkinyei, and Kangumo Primary school. Representatives from the two farmer groups agreed to come up with strategies that would ensure that their farmers supply cereals to more schools as currently 106 schools in Laikipia County receive HGSM money.
The two farmer groups narrated how the SNV support has helped to empower their members and that the Grain Business Hubs have enabled them to sell grains more efficiently and profitably.

They promised SNV that the conclusion of the Procurement Governance for Home Grown School Feeding Project has re-energized and provided them with an added motivation to ensure that they grow their grain business hubs.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Laikipia cooperative receives a maize sheller

By Bob Aston
The Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society on November 25, 2015 received a maize sheller from the Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC). Representative from Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) witnessed the handover by EAGC at the cooperative store in Sipili town, Ol-Moran Ward.
The EAGC support is towards enhancing the capacity of the cooperative towards managing members and other smallholder farmer’s cereal produce during shelling.
The support is also towards ensuring that the cooperative becomes a village aggregation centre. This will enable the cooperative to buy cereals in bulk from members and then distribute and sell them to schools and other structured markets.
Maize sheller donated by East African Grain Council
Speaking during the handover, Mr. Kipyegon Kipkemei from EAGC urged the group to utilize the equipment by doing business with it and ensuring members of the cooperative are the ultimate beneficiaries.
“The maize sheller will be co-owned between the cooperative and EAGC for a period of three years. After that duration, we will decide whether to leave it to the cooperative or give it to another group,” said Mr. Kipyegon.
The maize sheller is worth Kshs. 65,000. It has a capacity of 6.5-horse power and can therefore shell 20-25 bags per hour. The tank can hold 3 litres of petrol. Other beneficiaries included Ndurumo Cereal Bank, Sipili Cereal Bank, Ol-Moran Cereal Bank and Muhotetu Grain Bank.
Shelling is an important post-harvest activity in maize as it reduces post-harvest losses. Use of shelling machine reduces breakage of cereals and deterioration, as it is faster.
Formed in 2013, the cooperative emerged from the work undertaken by ALIN through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre with the support of the Ford Foundation’s Expanding Livelihoods for Poor Households Initiative (ELOPHI).
Its mandate is mainly to aggregate the farming communities by pooling them together and empowering them to take control of their farm’s enterprises, aggregation of farm produce and collective marketing to enhance their bargaining power and profit margins

Friday, 20 November 2015

Empowering farming communities through cooperatives

By Simon Munyeki and Bob Aston
Although Laikipia County is an arid area, this has not stopped its residents from taking farming seriously, as it is their main source of income. To make this enterprise profitable farmers from the region have formed Laikipia Produce and Marketing Cooperative Society.
Located at Gikomba Hills Complex in Sipili Township, Ol-Moran Ward in Laikipia West Sub County, the cooperative emerged from the work undertaken by Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre with the support of the Ford Foundation’s Expanding Livelihoods for Poor Households Initiative (ELOPHI).
Some members of the cooperative being trained on good agricultural practices

The cooperatives mandate is to aggregate the farming communities by pooling them together and empowering them to take control of their farm’s enterprises thus enhancing their bargaining power and profit margins.

The cooperative has partnered with stakeholders like ALIN, SNV- Netherlands Development Organization, Kenya Seed Company Ltd, MEA Ltd, Kilimo Biashara Promoters, Eastern African Grain Council (EAGC), Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP), Norbrook Kenya Ltd, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock has enabled the cooperative to undertake a lot of activities on behalf of the members.
Through collaboration with various stakeholders, the members have been able to benefit through various capacity-building trainings aimed at improving their agricultural enterprises.
Members share their cooperative experiences
Mrs. Naomi Ngonyo joined the cooperative in 2013 with the belief that access to subsidized government fertilizer will no longer be a problem for her as an individual farmer. In early March, she received an SMS from the cooperative management informing members to register for subsidized government fertilizer.
Although she was skeptical at first that the initiative would not succeed, she went ahead and registered for ten bags of subsidized government fertilizer. The same month she received an sms from the cooperative informing her that the subsidized fertilizer was available and she should visit the cooperative store to collect the fertilizer.
“The notion that most cooperatives are always mismanaged is not true. This year I managed to buy the subsidized government fertilizer through the cooperative. I saved a lot of money and time going to Nyahururu to look for the subsidized,” said Naomi Ngonyo
The cooperative stand during 2015 Laikipia County Agribusiness trade fairs
On his part, Mr. James Mathenge joined the cooperative in February 2014, when he was passing by the cooperative store and he saw a van unloading bags of certified hybrid maize seeds.  LRV documented the story titled “curiosity leads a farmer to joining a cooperative.”
Issue of certified hybrid seeds, advisory services and buying subsidized government fertilizer from the Co-operative are some of the things that encouraged him to join the Co-operative.
Since joining the cooperative, he has been buying certified hybrid seeds and subsidized government fertilizer without any problem. 
He is happy that for two season he has not had any problem with fake seeds as the cooperative has been selling genuine seeds directly from Kenya Seed Company Ltd and Pioneer Hi-Bred Ltd.
“This year I received five bags of subsidized government fertilizer from the cooperative. Getting the subsidized government fertilizer used to be a big problem but this year it was not an issue,” said Mr Mathenge.
High storage cost for cereals has always been a challenge for Mr. Simon Hehu. He feared that quality of his cereals would deteriorate after some time and fear of aflatoxin accumulation in storage usually makes him spend a lot of money in buying pesticides.
In August this year he was informed that the cooperative had entered into a distributorship deal with Bell Industries Ltd to supply Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) bags. 
After hearing the various benefits of the bag such as minimizing cost of storage and reduced post-harvest-grain losses, he realized that the bags would address his main challenges during storage.
Subsidized government fertilizer being offloaded to the cooperative store
The good news has made him plan to buy more bags for storing his grains once they dry. He said that he would no longer buy insecticides for storing grains as he has confirmed that the bags are effective.
Mrs. Jane Ndiritu a member of the cooperative was among the first farmers to benefit through an initiative of ALIN, Laikipia Produce and Marketing Cooperative Society, Kenya Seed Company Ltd, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and MEA Ltd.
The cooperative forwarded her name as one of the farmers to host a demonstration plot. Since then she has gained a lot of knowledge from several trainings organized at the demonstration plot and other trainings organized for members of Laikipia Produce and Marketing Cooperative Society.
This year marked the second year when she has bought certified hybrid seeds from the cooperative. She noted that it is safer to buy seeds from the cooperative due to guaranteed germination and lower prices.
“Access to certified hybrid seeds used to be a problem in Sipili. We used to buy fake seeds but now that is no longer a problem. The cooperative has enabled smallholder farmers like us to stop worrying about seeds,” said Mrs. Nderitu.
Despite cooperatives playing a major role in resource mobilization, agro-processing and marketing of agricultural produce, most smallholder farmers particularly in rural areas are always reluctant to join cooperatives but this is not the case with Laikipia Produce and Marketing Cooperative Society, as more farmers are enjoying the benefit of being members.