Role of external actors on the growth of farmers’ organisations
Farmers’ organisations are voluntary member associations of farmers within particular localities formed to undertake common activities of interest to members. These organisations often coalesce around particular production systems or members’ priority value chains. Their intended outcomes include increasing household assets and availing agricultural services to members.
Baobab | Issue 64 | September 2012
In Kenya, most extension services, as well as, agricultural research and development (R&D) activities by government and non-governmental agencies interrelate with farmer organisations. This increases efficiency in terms of the number of farmers an agency can reach and also increases returns in monetary investments. It also triggers peer review mechanisms within the farmers’ organisations as members review activities of external agencies.
Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) works closely with farmers’ groups in development and implementation of its research agenda within priority value chains. The projects below demonstrate the value of having researchers working with farmers groups.
The agri-food systems project
“Making agri-food systems work for the rural poor in Eastern and Southern Africa” is a project funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Rural Poverty and Environment Programme Initiative. Its overall goal is to stimulate the adaptation of pro-poor agri-food systems innovations as a contribution to improving food security and sustainable natural resource management. The project has sites in Kenya, Uganda and Malawi. The Kenyan project sites are in the districts of Nyandarua North (Kiriogo Location), Kirinyaga West (Kariti location) and Mbeere South (Kiambere and Mutuaobare Locations).
The project adopted an iterative process of progressive problem solving with action research in its implementation. Action research involves utilizing a systematic cyclical method of planning, taking action, observing, self-evaluating and critical reflection prior to planning the next cycle.
Researcher-extension-farmer interactions are ensured through an integrated system of demonstration plots, farmer field schools, farmer field days and mother-baby trials. Learning networks developed around this integrated system have yielded lessons in local organisational development, action planning and experiential learning.
Integrated system for researcherextension- farmer interactions
This integrated system builds the capacity of farmers to improve their production packages, their organisational skills and also their decision-making capabilities. The farmers’ groups directly linked to the project focus on production and marketing of priority traditional crops of high value like cowpeas, sorghum, sunflower and runner beans.
The groups increased collective action evidenced by formation of marketing federations for the priority crops. They have identified specific collection and storage points and potential buyers. These activities are coordinated by a marketing committee representative of all the groups.
Success story: Innovating for resilient farming Systems
Another project “Enhancing ecologically resilient food security through innovative farming systems in the semi-arid midlands of Kenya” is funded by the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF) and implemented by KARI and McGill University of Canada. This project catalyses adoption of high value traditional crops; imparts knowledge on improved agronomic management practices, encourages increased consumption of high value traditional crops for health and nutrition, links farmers to local and external input and output markets and contributes to formulation of policies focused on resilience.
The project is currently working with 54 farmer groups in various locations in seven semi-arid districts of Makueni (Wote, Watema and Kivani); Mwala (Masii, Miu and Kyawango); Kathonzweni (Kithuki, Kathonzweni and Mavindini); Makindu (Nguumo, Makindu); Yatta (Ndalani, Kinyaata and Katangi); Tharaka North (Thiti) and Tharaka South (Ntugi, Nkondi and Nkarini).
To link with farmers’ groups the project uses an integrated innovative design that allows farmers, extension agencies and researchers to interact directly at the Primary Participatory Agricultural Technology Evaluation (PPATE) sites. The PPATE sites are managed by groups of farmers at sub-location level. Three PPATEs come together to form a Focal Research and Development Area (FRDA), which administratively lies at Location level.
Through participatory processes, farmer groups prioritise preferred crop types. From KARI’s repositories, two new/improved crop varieties to match one of the landraces selected by farmers are offered. The three crop varieties are grown side by side at PPATE level. The appropriate agronomic management systems are demonstrated, learnt and discussed by the farmers, officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and KARI researchers. At the end of the season, the groups managing the PPATE sites open their evaluation farms to the larger community and interested stakeholders in field days to explain what they learnt throughout the season and the knowledge they gained.
Through this interaction, each PPATE farmer group has identified other farmer groups in their sub-locations (3-10 farmer groups) that they “mentor” through exchange of information and knowledge gained from the PPATE sites. These groups are potential scaling up entities known as the Secondary Participatory Agricultural Technology Evaluation (SPATE).
Through this innovative structure the project reached 1253 households in the PPATE groups in one planting season. Through the SPATE process, the project plans to reach over 10,000 starting the short rains of 2012.
This project design empowers farmer’ groups to take decisive actions in managing their environment, in adopting improved technologies for crop and livestock management, soil and water management, nutrient recycling, and in utilisation of bio-diversity.
The PPATE groups have coalesced at the FRDA level to form collective marketing groups for prioritised enterprises. The top three priority enterprises are indigenous chicken, cowpeas and green grams.
The groups have undertaken participatory market appraisals to assess capacities of local markets to purchase their produce and are now developing business plans to coordinate production of produce for the market in the October/November short rains of 2012.
Pro-poor agro-enterprises project
Development of pro-poor agro-enterprise value chains for sustainable rural livelihoods-up-scaling of lessons learnt (Ford Foundation funded project) is geared towards scaling-up of methodologies for participatory value chain development and improved farmer-research-extension-private sector engagement. The project activities include identification of partnerships, capacities, methodologies and policies necessary to develop and implement gender appropriate participatory value chains for pro-poor enterprise development. The priority agro enterprises are rearing indigenous chicken, bee keeping and growing passion fruits and banana.
The project is working with farmers groups in four districts in Kenya. Indigenous chicken keeping is in Malindi (Ganda, Jilore and Gongoni Divisions) and Naivasha (Mirera and Kongoni Divisions) Districts, where the project is working with 64 and 50 farmer groups, respectively. Banana and passion fruit activities are in Imenti South District in Abogeta and Nkuene Divisions with up-scaling activities in Igoji Division. The four passion fruit groups are umbrellas groups that comprise of about 20 sub groups.
These groups have gained skills in passion fruit nursery management for production of clean planting materials. This has translated to renewed interest in passion growing following earlier loss of orchards to disease. In Transmara District (Lolgorian and Angata Divisions) 16 farmers’ groups, which include women, among the Maasai community have embraced beekeeping.
These farmer groups were identified through a process of ground truthing, followed by profiling to ascertain their status in terms of length of existence; certification by the Ministry of Social Services, and composition of women, men and youth. This exercise enables categorisation of farmers groups into different levels on a continuum of forming → storming → norming → performing → adjourning/ mourning.
To guide engagement with farmer groups an adaptation of the PRADAN model of group engagement is used. This model allows farmers, researchers and extension agents to engage differently with farmers’ groups at their different resource levels. Farmers who progress to higher levels of the continuum ‘hand-hold’ other farmers who are less endowed.
The project integrates the Participatory Extension Approach (PEA) to simultaneously popularize technologies and upscale to other farmers. This approach shifts the extension paradigm of engaging farmers to assuming a catalytic role for social change in “learning together for change”.
- Farmer organisations have strategies and innovations that through the consultative effort of research, development and public policy can be mobilised for development.
- Effective participatory learning processes enable farmer organisations assess and apply R&D outputs on a more demand driven basis to solve specific problems.
- Farmer organisations are important agencies for uptake, promotion and scaling up technologies to promote agricultural production.
- Farmer organisations enhance researchextension- farmer linkages that enable smallholders spread risks, enhance food and nutrition security, gain income opportunities and adapt to effects of climate change.
- Creating strong chain relations and market linkages for priority value chains of farmers acts as an impetus for development of relevant skills among farmer organisations.
- Continuous capacity building, particularly in leadership skills, of farmer organisations leads to higher sustainability of groups and increases the sense of ownership of R&D outputs.
Immaculate N. Maina
Corresponding author: Immaculate N. Maina (PhD). Is a Senior Research Officer, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Headquarters, Nairobi
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Co-authors include: Esther Njuguna, Maureen Miruka, Muthoni Muta, Patrick Wahome, Lewa Kadenge, Lutta Muhammad and Festus Murithi from KARI.