Very often, fruit and vegetable farmers in Kenya have to grapple with greedy middlemen to market their produce.
Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), an NGO working with farmers to provide market information, which has increased their hopes of earning more from their produce. ALIN has initiated a market linkage project in the region, where farmers have been put in seven commodity groups to enhance their marketing channels. “Organising farmers into commodity groups helps them bulk their produce, bargain collectively and negotiate for better prices. Economies of scale further reduce transportation and handling costs,” said ALIN Deputy Director Antony Mugo.
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Through the organisation, farmers have been trained on group formation and dynamics, finance management, quality control and bulk marketing. They have also been linked to the Horticultural Crop Development Authority (HCDA), the industry regulator, for training in production practices, standards and marketing.
The NGO has also helped connect farmers with Government extension officers for training in crop husbandry skills, while mobile technology has improved access to market information. “Farmers only need to send a text to access our Soko Pepe platform to immediately access current commodity prices in various towns in the country,” said Mr Mugo.
Through the linkage initiative, passion fruit farmers are now able to access local and export markets. “We have been able to sell our passion fruit to Kenya Fresh for export. The company was offering a better deal, buying our produce at Sh90 per kilo, compared to the Sh70 brokers were paying for the same quantity,” said Peter Muturi, the chairman of 60-member Sipili Passion Fruit Growers Self Help Group, one of the commodity groups.
“The removal of brokers is providing farmers with better prices, increasing their confidence in the fruit and the acreage under export-oriented crops.” East African Growers has also shown interest in the county’s produce. Many buyers “We no longer have problems getting markets since we are linked with many buyers in bigger towns, such as Eldoret,” added Mwangi Muthee, the chairman of Olmutunyi Conservation Self Help Group.
Farmers have also been able to form a co-operative society to access micro-credit, and reduce their costs of production by buying fertiliser and other farm inputs in bulk at lower prices. The groups’ biggest challenge now is battling the passion fruit disease, dieback.
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