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.