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Monday, 26 May 2014

Co-operative set to celebrate one year in existence

By Bob Aston
Laikipia Produce and Marketing Cooperative Society which was started in 2013 by farmers in Sipili Division, Laikipia West is set to commemorate one year since it was formed next month. The co-operative currently has 286 members with males being 178 while females are 108.
The co-operative has already supplied 60 tonnes of fertilizer worth Ksh 3,300,000 and 23.456 tonnes of seeds worth Ksh 3,166,560 to farmers in Sipili.
ALIN Deputy Director addressing co-op members during a past function
Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) through Ng’arua Maarifa Centre, with support from the Ford Foundation, initiated the formation of the Co-operative to help farmers bulk produce, particularly maize.
ALIN is currently offering advisory support services, capacity building, information access and empowerment to the members of the Co-operative.
Kanja Waweru, Chairman Laikipia Produce and Marketing Co-operative Society said that they have made great strides in addressing problems facing farmers like sale of fake seeds, fake fertilizer and lack of market.
Kanja said that the co-operative has been registered as agents of Kenya Seed Company Ltd. This he said has enabled them to buy seeds directly from the company.
He said that they are now in the process of receiving warehouse Receipt System certification from Eastern Africa Grain Council (EAGC). This he said will reduce uncertainty and enhance efficiency in cereal marketing.
“We established the cooperative in order to address the problem of exploitation by middlemen who buy our maize cheaply when we harvest it, only to sell it at a much higher price a few months later,” said Kanja.

Kanja said that the co-operative has partnered with ALIN, MEA Ltd, Kenya Seed Company Ltd and Ministry of Agriculture to set up five (5) demonstration plots which are now being used to train farmers on best farming practices.
Kanja said that they are now seeking to source for better markets for their members as well as provision of inputs, value addition, training and capacity building for producer groups, establishment of financing and welfare and agency banking.
Sam Mwangi from ALIN addressing members during a past function
The co-operative has formed strategic alliances with organizations in public and private sector including; ALIN, Netherlands Development Organization (SNV), Kenya Seed Company Ltd, MEA Ltd, EAGC, Kilimo Biashara, Department of Co-operative in the Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Co-operative Bank and Agriculture Sector Support Program (ASDSP).
 “Lack of market has significantly been addressed by Sokopepe Ltd. Most of the members have been connected to buyers through SOKO+ and they have also been able to access commodity prices from major markets from the same platform,” said Kanja.
Kanja said that all the members of the co-operative are now having their farm records automated through Farm Record Management Information System (FARMIS-Kenya). This he said will help the members have access to various reports which highlight husbandry practices, market trends, weather conditions and on farm challenges.
Some of the objectives of the co-operative include; To improve economic welfare of members, to link farmers to markets and other business opportunities, to train and build capacities of farmers to adopt good agricultural practices, to increase access of quality, quantity and timely farm input supplies to farmers, to maximize profits by adding value to produce and to improve financial base of the cooperative and services to farmers.
Kanja addressing the co-operative members during a past function
Bett Kipsang who was instrumental in the formation of the co-operative said that initially most farmers did not know whether to form a self help group, community based organization or co-operative. They had to do a series of meetings with the provincial administration and church leaders in order to come up with the co-operative.
“We explained to the community the need to form a co-operative until they agreed to join. It was not a simple process as it took a long time to mobilize the community,” said Bett.
Bett said that the history of co-operative movement in Kenya has not been good as the sector has always been riddled with scandals. He said this discouraged most farmers from joining co-operatives.
“We had to convince the community that the co-operative will be different from others as they will be transparent and all members will be involved in decision making,” said Bett.
Bett said that the co-operative should be alive to the fact that members expect a lot from them thus they should strive to ensure that they sustain the confidence of the members.
Noah Koinett, officer in charge of Agribusiness, Ministry of Agriculture, Sipili Division said that the Ministry is proud of what the co-operative has achieved within a year. Noah said that most of the issues that led to the formation of the co-operative have been addressed or are in the process of being addressed.
Some of the members carrying certified hybrid seeds
He urged the co-operative officials to now look at sustainability of the business. He said that more farm inputs should be provided by the co-operative as seeds and fertilizers are seasonal hence need to increase other inputs.
“The management should try to ensure members continue buying shares as this is the backbone of the co-operative,” said Noah.
Tabitha Wanjiru, a member of the co-operative said that this year she has managed to get certified seeds as well as fertilizer from the co-operative. Tabitha is proud of the achievements of the co-operative as she said that they have achieved a lot within a short time.
“Various trainings have been organized for us by ALIN through the co-operative. The trainings have really empowered us as we are implementing what we were taught in our farms,” said Tabitha.
Tabitha has given a quarter of an acre for a demonstration plot. She expects to be able to practice Kilimo Biashara after learning through the various trainings that will be conducted at the demo plot.
“Bulk producing is helping us as a co-operative as we are now able to reap maximum benefits from maize farming. Soon all the members will be able to improve their livelihood,” said Tabitha.
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