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Improving farmer prospects through partnerships

OPEDS By Akinyi Koi | 11th Aug, 2020

To attain food security, farmers need to have access to seed of appropriate varieties in adequate quantities.

Engaging in partnership in ways that ensure fair and transparent interactions that take into consideration the unique assets, perspectives and needs of local communities is key in fulfilling Kenya’s food safety agenda.

As outlined in the Governments Big 4 Agenda, Food Security is at the heart of the government policy because higher agricultural output means improved incomes for farmers, food resilience within their households and enhanced farm productivity.

A number or organizations, taking advantage of the Public-Private Partnerships policy, such as Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFEA) is supporting the agenda through delivery of innovation, technology transfer and capacity building across the public and private sectors by partnering with stakeholders to boost agricultural production.

Access to seeds

To attain food security, farmers need to have access to seed of appropriate varieties in adequate quantities, of acceptable quality, in time for planting. Seed security is therefore crucial for the resilience of farmers in areas affected by disasters like the east African region which is prone to famine and droughts, and therefore for their food security.

While global seed markets can offer a great diversity of crop varieties with a wide range of characteristics in terms of adaptation to environmental conditions, production systems and properties of the end-products, small-scale farmers have very limited access to those varieties and knowledge associated with them. The situation is more critical in hazard-prone areas, where poor and vulnerable farmers may not even have access to the traditional sources of seed of their preferred varieties.

It is in the quest to solving this challenge that the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture is advancing partnerships that benefit the growth of agriculture.

“Through the years we have seen farmers across the country shying away from improved seed varieties either due to high cost of purchase or fear of adopting genetically modified seeds which are deemed harmful for human consumption. Our Seeds Team has been working to break these myths by introducing new varieties to the farmers. This has been achieved through investments in plant breeding, capacity building and technology transfer of new varieties to smallholders,” explains Samuel Gikonyo, Project Support Manager.  

The success of these partnerships has been witnessed in a number of places among them Murang’a County where Syngenta Foundation East Africa (SFEA) and Equatorial Nuts Processors (ENP) have partnered in order to catalyze access of seeds by smallholder farmers through introduction of  soybean and sorghum projects. The seeds used in the demonstration sites are varieties selected from KALRO, Advanta and Agrico and set up in demo sites within Murang’a County.

Reaching the farmers, last mile delivery

Stella Kimani who leads the SFEA’s Agriservices portfolio, explains that “our intervention plays a key role in aggregation of farmers. This is done by setting up rural entrepreneurs who each serve about 200 farmers, offering four types of services: advisory services (demo sites and trainings), access to quality inputs, mechanization, and market linkages. These entrepreneurs are referred to as Farmers Hub Owners.”

Through the farmers’ hubs, farmers are exposed to new technologies, including new seed varieties introduced through SFEA’s Seeds2B.

In collaboration with public partners like KALRO, we have successfully introduced three new bean varieties to farmers in both Nakuru and Nyandarua counties.

Further, SFEA has partnered with Kisima Farm, Agrico EA and ADC Molo to introduce five new seed potato varieties, most recently in Samburu County with critical support provided by KEPHIS and Samburu County Agriculture office.

On input supply, SFEA has partnered with various input suppliers to supply agrochemicals, fertilizers, financing, crop insurance, and soil analysis to the farmers through the farmers’ hubs.

 “A case in point is Mr. Michael Wachira’s farmers’ hub in Solai, Nakuru who uses his demo site to introduce new bean varieties from KALRO to his farmers. He then links the farmers to inputs (seeds, fertilizer, and agrochemicals) suppliers, offers advisory services on bean production while liaising with the county officials, and then he aggregates the bean harvest from his farmers and supplies to markets, some as far as Mombasa, explains John Mutahi of Agriservices.

Risk Management

Farming is a risky enterprise especially for smallholder farmers exposed to a horde of climate- related risks that significantly affect their income. Currently, smallholder farmers, not only in Kenya but in East Africa have greatly benefited from the uptake of agri-insurance.

Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture has a global Agricultural Insurance Service (AIS) Program which has a team in East Africa. Through this team, they have been working on agricultural insurance since 2009 from Kilimo Salama Project which later evolved into a social for-profit enterprise, ACRE Africa in 2014.

Currently, in additional to Kenya, the SFSA’s AIS is implementing two projects in Sudan, aiming at building smallholder resilience to climate change through a sharia-compliant innovative insurance solution while enhancing their knowledge on credit, savings, and insurance. The project commenced in September 2019 with a target outreach of 45,000 farmers in three States of Sudan by 2022. The target crops are Sorghum, Sesame & Groundnut.

Within the SFEA, Tony Gathungu as the Head of the Seeds2B Africa observed that “Farmers are challenged, and we have to pick out and try and resolve these challenges, by ensuring that there is coordinated, targeted, and well-resourced support for smallholder farmers. But we can’t do that in isolation, it has to be through scalable and revenue generating partnership models. ”.

For further discussion and any clarification, you can contact: Tony Gathungu, [email protected] .

Akinyi Koi works at Syngenta Foundation EA.

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