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Resource centre for small holder vegetable farmers

Our vision is to provide small-scale vegetable farmers in Gilgil, Kenya with credible pre-planting information through a physical centre.

Photo of Vegetable Resource Centre

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Our idea is to organize vegetable farmers into a co-operative that will provide a much needed link between successful farmers and small-scale farmers who want to acquire reliable pre-planting information on vegetables to increase their income hence improving their livelihoods. Farmers will contact us through SMS, a website, an app or a physical visit.
The cooperative aims to;
1. Link small-scale farmers with successful farmers who are conducting the same agricultural activities for, farm demos, exposure visits, training, and mentor-ship opportunities.
2. Efficiently connect and follow up with Extension/Agricultural Officers and other specialists
3. Organize international and local farm visits for both farmer types.
4. Provide a credible catalogue of pre-planting information available to both farmer types
5. Create a contact directory of all the farmers and specialists within the county
6. Create partnerships with players in the export/import and financing industries to benefit the farmers.
To encourage small-scale and successful farmers to join the cooperative, we plan to conduct various mobilization campaigns within the constituency. During the mobilization, we shall perform a simple needs analysis for each farmer while collecting the farmers' information to create the contact directory.
Content contained within the resource center’s catalogue will be informed by the crops grown by the farmers, the needs analysis and surveys conducted on the successful farmers.

WHO BENEFITS?

Our beneficiaries will be vegetable farmers who are members of our cooperative. These farmers who will include both small-scale and successful farmers will get quick access to reliable and verified information through practical experience hence reducing farming losses which are rampant for uninformed or ill-informed vegetable farmers. Through the farmers we will improve their families' standards of living especially their access to health and education; a challenge for most homes in the area.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

Yes it is. The first resource centre will be established in Gilgil Constituency in Nakuru County, Kenya before we create other branches within the region.

ARE YOU IMPLEMENTING IN AN ELIGIBLE COUNTRY?

  • Yes

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU!

We are part of a group comprising of DOT Kenya, Ycenter and VACID Africa working to bring innovation to agriculture through youth participation in Kenya through the Impactathon School of Agriculture.

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

This idea is new to our organization since we haven't dealt with agriculture directly, although being located in an area where agriculture is a common business, various members of the team have been involved in the activity.
We currently work with college and university educated youth to train other youth and women in local communities by providing training and skills in ICT and business skills. Our training encourages participants to identify and begin social enterprises in their communities or enable them to become suitable candidates for employment. Since establishing the organization, 70% our participants and trainers have gone on to pursue further education, employment or begin businesses including agribusinesses.
As part of our impact tracking, we continuously follow up with our former participants and trainers and have noted the challenges of information to be prevalent among those who venture into agribusiness hence the growth of our idea.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

It is unique in the Kenyan context because it will be the first of its kind offering a one stop information center for small-scale farmers to access pre-planting information.
Although we are quickly moving to a technology-focused society we seem to have forgotten that not everyone is digital. Hence, the resource center will provide the option of linking farmers to information, Extension/Agricultural Officers and other specialists with an option of the farmer making a physical visit to the center with a follow up physical visit being offered from the resource center staff or the specialist.
The resource center will also act as a physical and digital store with farmers’ and specialist directory, specialized pre-planting information for the various vegetable species and will later provide access to subsidized farm inputs.
Our unique advantage involves focusing on a specific constituency whose population is largely composed of small-scale farmers from which we will gain tips that we can replicate in other areas.
Our idea involves putting vegetables farmers into a cooperative that will provide an extract point for pre-planting information to benefit small-scale farmers.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

The Vegetable Resource Center (VRC) team will be the lead implementer for this project. The team will work closely with DOT Kenya, Ycenter and VACID Africa, in conjunction with our partner organizations in Nakuru County. DOT Kenya and grass-root partners based in Gilgil, Nakuru County will offer technical implementation expertise. VACID Africa will provide expertise on value addition components and cooperative formation, while Ycenter will offer technical expertise on social entrepreneurship.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

Our beneficiaries have confirmed the need for pre-planting information through practical experience. In addition, they have provided ideas for up-scaling activities to complete the agribusiness cycle. These activities include selling subsidies inputs and linking farmers to the markets.
Further to this, our beneficiary feedback tied the different stages in the pre-planting cycle as:
1.Finance: It is difficult for a small-scale farmer to get and manage finances even where there are rural credit facilities available due to lack of information;2.Farm Inputs: Such as agricultural chemicals may not be available in the area because of insufficient aggregated demand which the producer organization should be able to supply. Equally, the volume discounts are not available to the individual small‐scale farmer
3.Market strength: the small‐scale farmer is unlikely to have any influence in the market not only because of size but also because there are likely to be intermediaries; 4.Indirect marketing reduces the flow of market information back to the farmer; 5.Inadequate focused research targeted at the knowledge gaps which currently impede implementation of sustainable agriculture

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

Will providing pre-planting information through practical experiences directly improve other aspects of agribusiness such as storage and access to markets?
Will the created farmers links lead to collective bargaining for improved price of farm produce and eliminate the brokers?
Will the idea increase social cohesion and integration, and reduce the social classes gaps or will lack of such social aspects affect the success of the project?
How efficient will be working with partners to complete the agribusiness cycle such as access to farm inputs, harvesting and storage, and marketing since our idea only focus on information at pre-planting stage?

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

Although there are successful vegetables farmers in the piloting area (Gilgil Constituency) to emulate, small-scale farmers often produce the poorest quality of vegetables and quite often record losses. Members of our team have interacted with young farmers in the region where common concerns were;
1. Could your team (vegetable resource center) help us (small scale farmers) access farm demos, exposure visits and training on the best vegetable farming practices?
2. Could your team introduce us to successful farmers for vegetable farming information?
3. Could your team compile informational materials for us since there is no such services here?
4. Can your team help us form farmers groups?

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

Our idea aims to have small-scale vegetable farmers improve their livelihoods due to the increased vegetable yields as informed by the practical experience. To get there, we need to profile the successful vegetable farmers in the region and come up with a directory, bring them together in a cooperative, and organize farm demos, exposure visits and training for small-scale farmers through the successful farmers. We will also work with partners for farm inputs (to own one later) and market access.

MEMBERS OF MY TEAM HAVE BEEN WORKING TOGETHER FOR:

  • More than a year

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • Within 50 km of where our team does most of its work

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • We didn't have an operating budget

Our solution will focus around a resource centre which will be the link between the small-scale vegetable farmers and the farming communities which comprise successful farmers and Extension/Agricultural Officers. The resource centre will also act as a store for pre-planting information and farmers’ directory. The successful farmers will be organized into a cooperative which will allow them to access subsidized farm inputs from the resource center in return for pre-planting information for the small scale farmers. The farmers within the cooperative will have access to international and local farm visits which they can attend or host. The objectives are of the idea is to;

  • To link 200,000 small scale farmers to farming communities by 2021
  • To transfer pre-planting knowledge, through farm demos, exposure visits and training from successful farmers/agricultural extension officers to small scale farmers
  • To organize successful farmers into a cooperative for easy access to farm inputs, storage and markets.
  • To cultivate a spirit of information sharing within farming communities and small scale farmers

We define small-scale farmers as those who practice subsistence farming, own below 5 acres and produce vegetables in small quantities. These farmers often lack diversity in their agricultural activities, have low financing and are considered part of the informal economy. They are most vulnerable in the supply chain, have limited records such as title deeds or records for their produce and might not own or control the farm. Our focus will be on providing pre-planting information to small-scale vegetable farmers who fit majority of the characteristics mentioned above. The information will be generated from successful farmers who have characteristics contrary to those of the small-scale farmers mentioned above.

The Vegetable Resource Centre will also work towards reducing the employment rates by encouraging the youth to use ancestral farmland to earn an income. According to a 2014 assessment of Kenya's employment rates by USAID, the workforce in Kenya is significantly high in the informal sector in contrast, only 1.3 million people are engaged in modern formal employment. This figure is against more than 12 million people in the informal sector including 6.5 million smallholder farmers, 2.7 million people in self-employment, and 3.1 million people in informal wage employment. It is evident therefore that a majority of the Kenyan workforce are small-scale farmers. Thus, this project is deliberate in supporting such farmers and brings the ‘decency’ in the informal sector.

According to Cuts-International’s, KAPMAD Project, small scale farmers provide over 70% of agricultural produce and 50% of market produce, which meets about 75% of Kenya’s national demand. The produce is often in the context of subsistence farming. Poverty has been evidenced to overlap with small-scale farming hence promoting the notion that small-scale farming is unrewarding, inefficient, outdated and uncompetitive in both local and international markets. Research done by Serah Odini regarding small-scale farmers in Vihiga County found that there is inadequate information infrastructure and few information centres within the county which is the same case around the entire country. She also found that the lack of information on water harvesting, seed and soil quality, farm inputs and other conservation methods leads to losses for the small-scale farmers. Our solution to this problem is linking small-scale farmers with successful farmers since the latter already have the knowledge of how small-scale farmers can overcome challenges in their agricultural activities such as access to financing, application of new technologies and application of more efficient farming methods.

We as Vegetable Resource Center aim to design a solution that will help farming communities to share pre-planting knowledge through practical experience with small-scale farmers. Our solutions will focus on providing the following services; local and international tours, linking the small-holder farmer with an Agricultural/Extension Officer, linking small-scale farmers with successful farmers’ information source and providing access to farm inputs.

We believe that joining hands with social entrepreneurs, NGOs, private sector and government will provide a clear solution that will help small-scale farmers to upscale their households and increase market index.

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Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi! The Amplify team and our experts have some feedback for you:

I'm curious - are the people from their current programs are interested in agricultural extension information? Your beneficiary feedback seems to suggest that you now want to cover 'everything' - is that true? What makes them think a center is an effective way for farmers to get information like this? Is DOT (the key implementer) in Nakuru or elsewhere?

The idea of building a community resource center seems to be commonplace in many communities. What makes this idea unique?

Looking forward to learning more! 

Photo of Vegetable Resource Centre
Team

Dear Chioma,

First is to thank you for the feedback. Secondly, we would like to comment about the same;
1. The idea to link small-scale farmers to farming communities (successful farmers and agricultural extension officers) is based on the findings recorded during the implementation of the DOT Kenya Livelihood project in the region. Young farmers (part of DOT Kenya beneficiaries) expressed their needs to access practical knowledge on vegetable farming. They mentioned farm demos, exposure visits and training that would address their knowledge gap. As such, this idea was incubated allowing time to design a solution that would meet the agribusiness goals of these youths.
2. As you mentioned, the beneficiary feedback suggested the need to complete the agribusiness cycle. This is something we have sat as a team to discuss. A unanimous decision was reached and the team decided to directly address the pre-planting informational needs of small-scale farmers, which will be the major focus. To directly address 'everything' (other aspects of agribusiness) will be an uphill task to achieve. On that note, the team decided to work with partners who are directly addressing other parts of the cycle, but on case-by-case and on need basis. For markets, we decided to engage M-Farm (https://www.mfarm.co.ke/) and Soko Freshi (http://www.sokofreshi.co.ke/) mobile platforms to link farmers to markets. On farm inputs, this is our up-scaling plan to equip the resource centers with farm inputs outlets. Initially, we will work with available farm inputs joints in the region. For Finance, we will engage micro-financiers for soft-loans and other farmers funding plans.
3. Small-scale farmers are not organized in the region and there exist no formal structures. As such, they feel they wouldn't achieve much if they individually try to address their farming needs, as is the case currently. Their request to be supported to form farmers group and to be linked to vegetable information bred the idea to come up with a support focal point, which is currently the vegetables resource center.
4. DOT Kenya is a youth focused organization very active in 21 counties of Kenya including Nakuru see https://kenya.dotrust.org/wherewework . The vegetable resource center team is an excerpt of DOT Kenya having engaged VACID Africa http://www.vacidafrica.or.ke/ and Y-Center http://y-center.org/
5. The vegetable resource center (VRC) integrates several aspects. This include a farmers cooperative, and agricultural extension workers. We must say that VRC is not the reserve of the information as is the case with many community resource centers. Rather, we are just a link to information. That is, bringing a practicing successful farmer and small scale farmer together; the successful farmer will provide farm demos, exposure visit and training to the small-scale farmer, as opposed to VRC team providing the same. That brings the element of community participation and involvement. That way, sustainability is assured. We are unique!

Thank you and we hope to get more expert feedback to improve the idea. Our hearts are for the success of this project and improving the livelihoods of small scale farmers.

Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Vegetable Resource Centre, 

Thanks for the detailed responses to our questions! 

Great to hear that you've narrowed your idea. Have you thought about how you might measure the success of focusing on inputs over the course of 18 months? Are the inputs that you plan to focus solely information-based?

It's great that you are asking questions about what's next. Do you have any existing relationships with farmers that would provide the mentorship service you plan to provide? What have you learned about their motivations for participating? 

Finally, can you tell us a little more about the team at VRC that will be leading this? That is, how many people will devote what amount of time to this project?

Thanks!

Photo of Vegetable Resource Centre
Team

Hi Chioma,

These are great questions that will go a long way in ensuring that we consider everything before we implement the project. The VRC team would like to provide responses to your constructive questions;
1. As you noted, our main focus is to bridge the pre-planting information gap for small scale farmers through the farming communities (successful farmers and agricultural extension officers). On inputs, we consulted VACID Africa, a value chain consulting firm that has helped in formation several successful farmers’ cooperatives in Kenya, who indicated that it would be prudent to include a farm inputs store(a physical structure stocked with farm inputs) within our resource centers. Since this was not our original idea, we decided to have it as an upscaling plan and for the initial phases engage already existing inputs joints in the region. This preliminary stage will be information-based although we intend to create awareness about VRC to the owners of these inputs stores to offer the right inputs and information to the farmers. Now, how do we measure the outcome? The VRC team had the idea of conducting a baseline survey during recruitment, and review survey after each planting season, then an outcome survey after one year. Baseline and review survey will attempt to compare aspects (for inputs) such as;
     i. Do small scale farmers use the right seeds as recommended by successful farmers and agricultural extension workers?

    ii. What farm mechanization has been adopted by small scale farmers?
    iii. What agrochemicals and fertilizers are applied by small scale farmers? Are they used at the right time? Are they used in the right quantity?
    iv. Are they (small scale farmers) aware of the various input stores in their regions? What motivate them to buy from the particular stores?

Outcome survey will measure the level of reduced food wastage and spoilage, livelihood improvements and other indirect impacts such as improved health and education.

2. VRC idea implementation will be a collaborative effort. The reason for engaging VACID Africa is because of their direct involvement with all farmers types (both small scale and successful farmers). As we already mentioned above, VACID Africa has pioneered several successful farmers’ cooperatives across the country, including in Nakuru. They will be the link to farmers in the region. On the other hand, VRC team (through DOT Kenya Livelihood program) has engaged the community in a different level, that is, business, ICT and life skills training, which has led to establishment of startups including agribusinesses. This engagement has helped the team understand the farmers’ needs even more.

3. Are farmers motivated to participate? Firstly, the successful farmers wish to expand their knowledge. We learnt that we need to offer incentives for them to participate. The essence of forming a cooperative and organizing local and international farm tours is to motivate them. Bringing more partners will also entice them. Secondly, the small scale farmers have the needs for pre-planting information. Linkages to farm demos, exposure visits and training will motivate them. VRC team will provide linkages to farm input stores, and later establish our own which will be an incentive to the small scale farmers. VRC is looking forward to conducting fierce mobilization and awareness creation activities that would complete the motivation aspect.

4. As mentioned in the previous response, VRC team is an excerpt of DOT Kenya. We serve at various capacities in the ReachUp! Program (a program that empowers communities with life skills, ICT and work readiness skills) and StartUp! Program (a program that trains communities on practical entrepreneurship skills through the business model canvas approach). See more at https://kenya.dotrust.org/programs . Within our team is a communication, advocacy and fundraising manager (with a background in communications and journalism), communications assistant, ReachUp! Program facilitator (with a background in information technology) and StartUp! Program facilitator (with a background in community resource management). We are all trained on social entrepreneurship and innovation, and design thinking by Y-Center, facilitation and coaching skills by DOT Kenya, and on agricultural value chain by VACID Africa, where part of our commitment was to design and execute the vegetable resource center idea. The team members have actively engaged the community in training, coaching, market surveys, financial and business linkages, business planning, business competitions, and education and jobs placements. Some members of the team are permanent residents of Gilgil, Nakuru County and already practicing agribusinesses.

Thank you Chioma and looking forward to more observations about the idea.

Regards, VRC Team

Photo of Martin Waithaka
Team

This is a good summary and clarification VRC. The concept is brilliant and focused. 

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