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Comics to help improve social cohesion for smallholder farmers in Kenya

Using comics to improve training for Kenyan cooperative members on the importance of cooperative management, social cohesion, and leadership

Photo of Nuru International
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Most farmers in rural areas of Kenya do not have access to simple, clear and relevant information on the importance of joining groups, creating cooperatives and leadership techniques for making the cooperatives grow. These cooperatives can help smallholder farmers establish better market linkages, establish strong social cohesion, and adapt to challenges created by climate change. All cooperatives are democratic organizations where members are owners. This ownership encourages social cohesion between members of different economic, ethnic and religious backgrounds. However, training for cooperative membership is not often tailored on smallholder farmers and small member cooperatives. These smallholder farmers often lack the education and experience of larger member organizations. Since they are not as profitable as large-scale cooperatives, training for these smallholder farmers is not as effective as it can be. This has led to a majority of farmers disregarding cooperatives and farmer groups because it is not clear what value-add it may have. Our idea uses comics, graphics, and local language translation to pass information to farmers in a simple, appealing and engaging way so that they can get the necessary information needed to manage and drive cooperatives as their force for economic and social development. All cooperatives have a social component and require a strong understanding of local norms to be successful. Our idea distills international best practices in leadership, social cohesion and cooperative business development into simple and digestible content. We strongly believe in the power of the community-led approach and these comics are used to give smallholder and marginalized farmers more ownership over their crop yields, access to markets, and community programming. In order for local leaders to make positive change in their community, they need to have ownership over their economic choices. These comics help farmers achieve that goal.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries are smallholder farmers living in extreme poverty in Migori County, Kenya who lack access to information on the benefits of cooperative membership. Specifically, we work on capacity-building local leaders with knowledge around how to form and manage cooperatives, how to use cooperatives as vehicles of social and economic empowerment, and the importance of key leadership principles. They would benefit from this idea because these tailored trainings are made for their specific education level, experiences and align with international best practices in capacity-development. Capacity-development of local leaders is a key function of Nuru International's mission. Cooperative members who understand the key components of cooperative management will have better control over their economic future. Targeted visual comic training content will create a participatory, engaging learning environment. Adults learn better when activities are fun and what is more fun than comics?

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Our idea is unique from other organizations. For most cooperative training, the focus is only to train large-scale cash crop cooperatives. These have higher profits than small-scale ones, so international organizations spend more time creating this content. But it is often too technical or theoretical to be useful in a remote, rural setting. Unlike other ideas which only focus on one aspect of information, our idea is threefold. One, it involves the local leaders in the development of messaging. Nuru interviews local leaders to analyze what content is most applicable for their community. We then design very specific content around those needs. Secondly, it uses graphics and comics to make the information appealing and easy to understand. Finally, it utilizes the local language, customs, and norms as a mechanism to pass on information to farmers who cannot read in English. Apart from that, we use simple booklets which can easily be shared across programs and geographic locations.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Nuru International equips people with the tools and knowledge they need to lead their communities out of extreme poverty.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

This project began in 2016 when our farmers wanted more information on leadership and governance for local cooperatives. We were inspired seeing farmers enjoying comics in their downtime. A large percentage of farmers face barriers in accessing relevant information that will enable them make sound decisions; these comics can help remove some of those barriers.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

All of our topics based on two resources: international best practices for cooperative management and input based on detailed feedback from our training participants. There are some aspects of cooperative management, such as record-keeping that are important for a cooperative's success. We take this content and add it to the comic format. Secondly, all of our comics are co-created based on input from our training participants. We conduct detailed and frequent feedback with our cooperative members and use that feedback to refine the comics. For example, they gave us input about the importance of conflict management in building community resilience. All of the topics are extremely localized and use local language, customs, dress, and geography. We have been able to integrate pictures of actual farms into our comics which has helped participants view the content as their own. This is different from other organizations who create generalized training for an international audience.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

In this project we will work with farmer cooperatives, local government officials, local businesses, and local community leaders. The farmer cooperatives will be co-creators and co-owners of the comics as we will provide them with the technical support to help them create more comics. Previously we have worked with cooperatives in co-creation and this has helped create targeted content with relevant needs.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Some of their strengths include: Resilience dealing with climate change induced challenges such as drought, fall army worm and various crop diseases; Commitment to social change in their community; Understanding of best agronomic farming techniques; Ability to give direct feedback; Surplus of fertile land for improved farming and a decentralized government structure.

Geographic Focus

Rural communities of smallholder farmers in Migori County, Kenya

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

This idea would require 1 year for full implementation. We would need 3 months to create a scaling plan; 3 months for community feedback; 3 months for design and edits to the comics and 3 months to implement and review the outcomes of the comic creation.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No
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Attachments (2)

Nuru OpenIdeo_Comics3.JPG

Nuru Kenya's leadership team facilitating a cooperative training for cooperative members. These small, informal but focused trainings are specificaly designed to help build stronger social cohesion between cooperative members.

Nuru OpenIdeo_Comics2.JPG

An example of how the comics can be used to show actions needed when establishing a cooperative.

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Vicky S.

Your idea sounds great! Congratulations on your initiative.