Integrating Sokopepe with the Maize Value Chain in Laikipia
The integration of ALIN’s pioneering online and mobile phone-based market and knowledge management platform Sokopepe with the agriculture value chains has had encouraging results. At ALIN’s Ng’arua Maarifa Centre where Sokopepe has been piloted for two years, the main traded commodity is maize. In addition, farmers produce beans, other legumes and various fruits and vegetables. The area also commands brisk business in livestock products.
Recognising the need to ensure that small scale agriculture and livestock producers are the main beneficiaries of Sokopepe, these efforts have focused on farmers’ organisations in order to ensure that farmers can pool produce to achieve volumes demanded by the market; and also be able to negotiate collectively for the best prices as they buy farm inputs and sell produce.
Farmers recently set up Laikipia Produce and Marketing Cooperative Society for just this purpose at Ng’arua with the support of ALIN. So far, the cooperative has been registered with the relevant Ministry and has started work in earnest. “During their cooperative extra-ordinary general meeting this last week, the members agreed that they will channel their maize sales this season through the cooperative and to work with a minimum price of KES. 2,500 (US$30) per 90 Kg.-bag,” reported Samuel Mwangi, ALIN’s Team Leader for Community Empowerment. He added that the cooperative members had agreed to build a revolving fund through cash and in-kind contributions towards membership to the cooperative.
This initial effort has raised KES. 90,000.00 (US$1,060), a commendable effort but not nearly enough to enable the farmers to undertake the activities they have resolved to do. These include: stocking seeds and fertiliser; running a revolving fund in a way that they can take produce immediately after harvest and advance members funds to address immediate needs before prices appreciate; and eventually to acquire or build a certified cereal bank capable of holding sufficient produce to ensure all members can sell their harvest through the system.
On the production side, the farmers acknowledge that they have been unable to achieve volumes of maize that their land can potentially produce. Experts estimate that farmers in the area can harvest as many as 70 bags of maize (90 Kg. each) per acre against the current achieved maximum of a mere 25 bags an acre. “With this in mind, the project partners will conduct two or three demonstrations over a season, to determine and show the optimal practices for both the technical work (agronomic) and the timings due to seasonality,” said Samuel after participating in several meetings with farmers, cooperative officials and other stakeholders.
The structure of Sokopepe encourages individual farmers to aggregate their produce preferably as farmers’ groups. Sokopepe agents then tag the produce to ensure is traceable to individual farmers ensuring a “farm to fork” seamless movement where quality is assured and everybody along the chain gets maximum benefits out of their productive endeavours.
The future of the cooperative is bright, since they have decided to take on the mantle of addressing their own problems using their own resources. Several partners have confirmed willingness to assist them towards this endeavour, among them the Kenya Seed Company and Murphy Chemicals, who have identified the farmer group as a potential stockist for their products. In addition, the group is willing to innovate around the agricultural value chains they are involved in, taking advantage of emerging opportunities offered by Sokopepe and the new County government. Farmers’ groups can also register on the system to access other services such as farm inputs, farming tips, market prices and extension services among many others.
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