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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Laikipia farmers say Co-operative Society is the way to go

By Dennis Kipkirui
Farmers in Laikipia County have formed a producer and marketing co-operative society. Laikipia Producers and Marketing Organization (LPMO) initially formed as a Community Based Organization (CBO) will now be transformed into a co-operative society. This was arrived at a two day workshop held in Sipili Catholic Hall Wednesday last week.The workshop aimed at training farmers on importance of value chain. The theme of the inception workshop was ‘Enhancing Farmers’ Capacity to Harness the Agriculture Value Chain and Promoting Citizens’ Engagement through Media Using ICTs’.
James Nguo Regional Director opening the workshop

The Ford Foundation has funded a two year project aimed at promoting agriculture value chain through ALIN in collaboration with the Kenya Agricultural Productivity & Agribusiness Programme (KAPAP). The workshop attracted people from various sectors which include KAPAP, Kenya Seed Company, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Livestock, Provincial Administration and other partners of ALIN.

The workshop was officially opened by ALIN’s Regional Director James Nguo. He was accompanied by Deputy Director Anthony Mugo and Project Manager Noah Lusaka. While opening the ceremony Mr. Nguo urged farmers to emphasize value addition in their produce so as to empower them. He thanked farmers from the area for cooperating with ALIN through Maarifa Centre and asked them to work together especially in attaining success in the upcoming project. 

On his part Mr. Mugo gave an overview of ALIN activities with special emphasis on sokopepe service which uses SMS to link farmers to markets. Farmers can access market prices for their produce at the comfort of their homes without necessarily travelling. They can even now order for farm inputs using the phone through sokopepe service. Mugo informed participants that it is now possible to register for the service using the phone without visiting Maarifa Centre to register with a computer as before. 
David Kimaru training participants on sokopepe service
Different presentations were given at the workshop which aimed at making farmers identify specific value chains. In the long run, farmers agreed to have three value chain crops namely, maize passion fruits and tree tomatoes. They also agreed to form a co-operative society and mandated a team of persons to report back the progress of full registration within a month.

Through facilitation made by Fanuel Lubanga, farmers saw the need to have a society that will enable them market their produce while at the same time do business and own property. This would not have been possible if they remained as a CBO because of stringent statutory regulations. Lubanga enumerated success stories of co-operative societies in the US and encouraged farmers to have joint efforts to boost their bargaining power.

There was excitement and a barrage of questions when Charles Nyakiongora representing Kenya Seed Company rose to make his presentation. Farmers demanded to be told why fake seeds found their way in the market yet Kenya Seed had a mandate to supply them with certified seeds. With his charming personality, Mr. Nyakiongora smoothened his way to the hearts of participants and explained how it was not possible for the company to easily detect the suppliers of fake seeds. He asked farmers to join hands with Kenya Seed to fight the mess in the sector because ultimately the farmer will lose. He also informed them that the company do not have prosecutorial powers but has been left with a sister parastatal KEPHIS.

ALIN’s project manager Noah Lusaka helped participants identify desired qualifications for the office bearers. After the session members identified their leaders on an interim basis. He later closed the workshop with a review of all activities done for the last two days. He thanked participants for availing themselves.

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