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The missing middle and food security

To enable millions of farmers to produce food sustainably and earn better incomes.

Photo of Mary Mwaura
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

LRC Foundation

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Latia Agribusiness Institute- Kenya ACET Ghana Maastricht School of Management- Netherlands Miramar College- Kenya

Website of Legally Registered Entity

https://www.latiaresourcecenter.org/

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Under 1 year

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Nairobi

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Kenya

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Isinya town located at the southern part of Kenya has a total area of approximately 1.056 km^2

What country is your selected Place located in?

Kenya

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

We selected the place as that is where Latia farm is located. It is important to us as it provides agricultural training and farm management services to farmers. We are also the founders of the training college at the farm and our aim is to ensure the communities around the area who face the hostile arid climate learn climate smart agricultural solutions, get linked with resources, improve their livelihood through optimising agricultural value chains and improve their nutrition.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Isinya is a rural town along Nairobi Namanga highway that can also be accessed through Kiserain pipeline road. It is characterised by weekly markets where the natives (Maasai community) who are pastoralists bring their livestock to trade. The shopping center hosts individuals from other communities who operate small shops and rent houses there. The community grow small vegetables besides keeping livestock and their meals are largely characterized by animal products such as milk, beef etc. and accompanied by ugali a local meal prepared by maize flour. The soil is black cotton, the water is salty and its mostly a hot and dry area. The area also has 5 universities, factories that employ it's population and many commercial flower farms. The Maasai who own large tracts of land form the rural community and the urban community has traders from nearby counties such as the Akambas, Agikuyu, Luos, Luhyias etc. The urban population are also labor force in the nearby factories and flower farms. The Maasai community mostly prefer handicraft activities making their traditional bangles, belts, clothing, shoes etc using the beads and selling to other communities. They wear their cultural attires as everyday apparel and therefore very easy to identify them. With the harsh weather conditions, vegetables are hard to come by and they mostly rely on milk and meat affecting their nutrition. The workers from the flower farms and factories are poorly paid and mostly have one meal per day. Agriculture is prominently practiced by big commercial farms and the natives keep livestock. The locals who own the land grow vegetables for subsistency and depending on the annual short rains. The land have been overused and the yields are poor. The land are owned by families who are poor and cannot afford inputs.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

1

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

15027

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

As countries have urbanized the demand for processed and easy to prepare foods has risen in tandem as time stressed urban dwellers have less time to prepare food. The under-developed agricultural value chains have not been able to respond to demand stimulating the emergence of a strong processing sector that cannot meet the demand and thus the emerging demand met by imports. This is equivalent to exporting jobs, yet youth unemployment is already a critical challenge. The key challenge is low productivity of agriculture cannot attract investors in other parts of the agricultural value chain to invest in logistics, processing to capture the emerging markets.

The agricultural transformation strategy remains focused on improving smallholder farmer productivity and increasing access to markets. However, a smallholder centric approach as currently practiced cannot drive the needed transformation as smallholders are poor and thus risk averse, they tend to practice low input-low output agriculture. Higher yielding seeds require greater investment in seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and labour. Without guaranteed markets this makes their adoption very risky. So while research institutes in Africa have produced an array of high yielding seeds uptake is low, plot sizes are becoming small and low input farming means that farmers are farming unsustainably. Fallow time reduced drastically and farmers are essentially mining the soils resulting to land degradation. The transformation needed require significant investment in land and other sectors of the value chains. The key to stimulating investments in value chain is increasing productivity at farm level and reducing input cost for processing sector and give supply guarantee is critical for other actors to invest in logistics and processing. However, subsistence oriented smallholder farmers are not likely to invest unless there are market guarantees and value chains upgraded. For markets to stabilize there is need for investment in logistics and storage infrastructures and more crucially in processing. Unless productivity rises other investors cannot invest.

Upgrading value chains and inserting the youths into upgraded value chains is another policy strategy being pursued as agri-food systems are seen as the way to respond to the youth’s jobs crisis. However, this is also an uphill task a youth have no access to land. Parents are living longer and thus little land to invest. Lands available are being bought up by urban middle class who already own almost a quarter of the agricultural land and farming remotely via telephone and hence their name “Telephone Farmers”. Thus participation in agri-food system cannot be focused in making young people farmers.

Looking ahead towards 2050, the challenges are likely to be exacerbated. Rapid urbanization is only going to drive demand for process foods and also imports of foods. Rising incomes are going put more money in pockets of better positioned middle class professionals and this accelerate their agricultural land holdings. This will have serious impact on rural poverty and subsequently drive urban poverty as young people lacking opportunities flock to cities.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Medium scale farmers are investor farmers keen to adopt high input-high output farming and thus stimulate investment in other part of the value chain and especially in logistics and processing. They can help transform the smallholder farmer from low-input, low-output to high input-high output farmers. Because of their bigger scale, the emerging supermarket chains prefer to contract them and since they not do have the scale to meet all the market demands and they subcontract include smallholder farmers to fulfil their demands. Including smallholder farmers in their supply chains, they also diffuse technologies and transfer good agricultural practices. They avail needed mechanization in rural areas as they have ability to acquire machinery but do not have capacity to fully utilize the machines. This sector is relatively under-developed in Africa and has been referred to as the missing middle in the farming landscape (ACET 2017)

The presence of middle class urban professionals known as Telephone Farmers (TFs) who own agricultural land provides an opportunity to filling the missing middle in Kenya farm system and can be the vanguard of a new revolution in the food system. They have the land, resources to invest and networks that can mobilize resources and open markets in local, regional and international markets. Building the missing middle in Kenya will entail innovation in business model to ensure that “Telephone Farming” become productive and profitable way of farming. As they cannot be on the land, the key will be the development of a farm services business model that can deliver a suite of services to the Telephone Farmer.

The key innovation will entail developing an ecosystem of service providers and leveraging information and communication technologies to develop a platform to coordinate the activities. Young people can be developed to be Agricultural Service Providers (ASPs) to the “Telephone Farmers”” rather than become farmers. The key to development of this ecosystem include:

An internet platform that links Telephones Farmers (TFs) to ASPs so that farmers can order services on the platforms, monitor delivery of services and make payments. The systems links farmers to markets and facilitates order execution including origination, fulfilment and payment and provides a seamless link between suppliers and ASPs, Technical Services Providers (TSPs) and ensuring ASPs are backed to deliver services to farmers.

An agricultural apprentice school/training centre that develops young people to become (ASPs) through practical training and in business practices though incubation.

A franchising system that takes the young people develops and spins them to a franchise equipped with needed equipment and linked to farmers and backed by supporting infrastructure.

A network of vetted TSPs that can deliver specialized services to telephone farmers and back-stops the agricultural services providers.

A network of vetted providers of inputs to supply ASPs.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Isinya will become a vibrant hub of agricultural innovations. Developing and spinning a veritable network young people as Agricultural Service Provider (ASPs) across a country.  Creating a national (an eventually and African wide franchise) that will usher the emergence of a vibrant and sustainable medium scale farming that acts a glue to a vibrant farming ecosystems of small holder medium scale and large scale farmers living together in symbiotically and supporting an upgraded value chain that has attracted logistics providers, processors and differentiated marketers and thus responding to highly differentiated and dynamic food market place.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Although agriculture remains the bedrock of most economies contributing between close to 30% of economies and employing about two-thirds of the populations the sector underperforms. However the sector underperforms and has been unable to respond to rapidly transforming food landscape. As countries have urbanized, demand for processed and easy to prepare foods has risen in tandem. The under-developed agricultural value chain have been unable to respond. The sector has not be able to stimulate the emergence of a strong processing sector and thus emerging demand has met by imports which are high and rising. As a result food security remains a challenge and rural poverty is wide spread and is rapidly being transformed to urban poverty as young people seek better opportunities in urban areas. The key challenge is low productivity of agriculture meaning many people working in the sector are working poor. This also means that the investors cannot be attracted to upgrade the value chains and create high quality jobs in logistics, processing and marketing sectors of the value chains.

All the same agriculture has significant potential to transform livelihoods. Beyond guaranteeing food security, agricultural can be the basis of transformation as and upgraded agriculture can be the basis of strong agroprocessing sector, and provide many non-agricultural jobs in logistics, inputs supply and services along the value chain. Increased rural incomes also increase aggregate demand and stimulate growth of non-agricultural sectors. Agricultural transformation is thus needed.

However much of the efforts in transformation has focused on increasing productivity of small holder farmers and upgrading value chains to link them better to markets. This smallholder centric approach has a challenge and needs to be re-evaluated.

The key to agricultural driven economic transformation is high productivity and developed value chains to respond to emerging markets. This requires significant investment in land and more crucially other sectors of the value chains. While this is happening in some sectors especially retailing end with much local and foreign investment driving the supermarket revolution, other aspects of food value chain are not seeing similar investments. This explains much of the rise in food imports. They to stimulating investments in value chain is increasing productivity which is a big challenge for smallholder farmers. The key is that smallholders are poor and thus risk averse, they tend to practice low input-low output agriculture. Higher yielding seeds require greater investment in seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and labour. Without guaranteed markets this makes their adoption very risky. So while research institutes in Africa have produced an array of high yielding seeds uptake is low. On the other hand for markets to stabilize there is need for investment in logistics and storage infrastructures and more crucially in processing. This requires investors to be guaranteed of consistent supply, consistent quality and competitive price. High-input high-output farming posture is needed to give this guarantee. This bring forth the classic chicken and egg problem where smallholders are unwilling to invest in productivity without market guarantee and investors in other parts of the value chains are unwilling to invest unless productivity is high

Smallholder farming is also increasingly becoming unsustainable and as sizes decrease and land is also farmed more intensively. Today much of agricultural land is degraded. At the same time land ownership in Africa is rapidly changing as urban based middle class buy more and more land. Today 20-30% of agricultural land is owned by this class of people and the share is rising rapidly. While this class of people try to farm remotely, they meet many challenges as they are not good in farming and lack the time and lack tools to effectively monitor farm activities and as result much of the land owned by this class lies idle. Yet policy does not do to address the issue of developing middle class farmers and developing the appropriate model to help this class of farmers to thrive and indeed be the engines of agricultural transformation in Kenya (and Africa)

Youth unemployment is perhaps the biggest challenge facing Kenya (and Africa) may efforts are being made to create opportunities for them through making young people go into farming. The only challenges is that parents are living longer meaning farming land is less available through inheritance (the traditional way of accessing As land) and huge families and small plots means that when inherited pieces are increasingly unsustainable. Further middle class are buying up available land. Agricultural land is increasingly becoming unavailable for young people. The youth employment strategy needs a rethink.

The emergence of medium scale farming sector can break the chicken and egg impasse that has resulted in low-input-low output farming posture. Medium scale farmers are essentially investor farmers so they are keen to adopt high input-high output farming. Because of the bigger scale medium scale farmers, the emerging supermarket chains prefer to contract them. As they also do have the scale to meet all the market demands and they tend to include smallholder farmers as subcontractors to fulfil demand. In including small holder farmers in their supply chains, they also transfer diffuse technologies (in most cases they supply them with seeds and other inputs on credit) and transfer good agricultural practices. Medium scale farmers also avail needed mechanization in rural areas as they have ability to acquire machinery but do not have capacity to fully utilize the machines. For example in Ghana medium scale famers utilize less than half of their tractor capacity and hire the rest to the surrounding farmers (Chapoto, 2014). Their presence does stimulate the entry of larger traders who then invest in storage and logistics as seen in Kenya (). Medium scale farmers also have the scale to interface with large scale farmers as they are big enough. This is crucial as large scale farmers have capacity to bring in frontier technologies to the country. The technologies can then be diffused to medium scale farmers and onward to small scale farmers. For example in dairy sector in Kenya large scale farmers are able to import breeding technologies and develop locally adapted high quality dairy cows. The medium scale farmers are able to uptake this and raise high quality dairy cows for selling to smallholder farmers. In this way a specialized and highly productive dairy sector has emerged. Indeed transformation of agricultural landscape crucially depends on having a strong ecosystems of large, medium and small scale famers working symbiotically to allow specialization (ACET, 2014). The glue in this symbiotic system is the medium scale farming. The lack of a small medium scale sector partly explain the under-developed agricultural landscape in Africa. It has been referred to as the missing middle in Africa farming systems (ACET 2017). Building this missing middle is key to transforming the Africa food systems.

Thus the presence of middleclass urban professionals who own agricultural land provides an opportunity to filling the missing middle in Kenya farm system. These urban based farmers otherwise known as Telephone Farmers (TFs) can be the vanguard of new revolution. They have the land and as they are mostly professionals they have resources to invest and also networks that can mobilize resources and open markets in local, regional and international markets. However, building the missing middle in Kenya will entail innovation in business model to ensure that remote farming or “Telephone Farming” can become productive and profitable way of farming. As they cannot be on the land, they key will be the development of a farming services system.

The key innovation will entail developing an ecosystems of service providers and leveraging Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to develop a platform to coordinate the activities. Young people can be developed to be Agricultural Service Providers (ASPs) to the “Telephone Farmers” rather than become farmers. The key to development of this ecosystems include:

A franchising systems that develops young people into ASPs and spins them to a franchises equipped with needed skills and equipment and linked to TFs and also backed by supporting infrastructure. The franchise provides farms services so that if a farmer wants pest control, the ASPs franchise has needed equipment, expertise and inputs to go and deliver the services. The farmers need not invest in inputs, equipment and expertise realising significant resources that can be further invested in upgrading the farm. The franchise systems will also have a network of vetted technical services providers (TSPs) that can deliver specialized services e.g. veterinary services and also back-stops the ASPs. Also the franchise system has a network of vetted providers of inputs to supply ASPs

An agricultural apprentice school/training centre (s) that develops young people to become (ASPs). This include training them on agricultural practices through practical training and also in business practices though incubation. The two initial centres will be at Latia Agricultural Institute (LAI) in Isinya, Kajiado County and in at Miramar College in Kiambu County

An internet platform that links Telephones Farmers (TFs) to ASPs so that farmers can order services on the platforms, monitor delivery of services (e.g. can order drones to fly to the farm and send reports) and make needed payments. The systems also links farmers to markets and facilitates order execution including origination, fulfilment and payment. The platforms also provides a seamless link between suppliers and ASPs, TSPs and ASPs ensuring ASPs are properly backed to deliver services to farmers.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

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Photo of Etyang Tiberious
Team

Hello Food System Vision Prize participant,
Salvation Farming Solutions team would like to invite you for a session on multi-stakeholder interactions for sustainable farming practices and community educational programming for Friday, January 31, 2020 at 4:00pm EAT.
The conversation will be moderated by Professor Leonard Sonnenschein, Founder SFS and Tiberious Etyang, SFS Managing Director for Africa.
The details of the meeting below:
Topic: Multi-stakeholders Conversation
Time: Jan 31, 2020 04:00 PM Nairobi
Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/204673996
Meeting ID: 204 673 996
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