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Thursday, 29 May 2014

Matwiku Horticulture Growers seeks to expand market

By Bob Aston
Horticulture farming in Kenya has been on the rise in recent past. More farmers have diversified their activities by venturing into the field. Farmers in Matwiku village in Ng’arua Division, Laikipia County, have not been left behind as they have come together to form Matwiku Horticulture Growers Self Help Group to champion their interest. The group was officially registered on January 27, 2014 though it has been in existence for four years.
The group is comprised of 21 members, nineteen male and two female. Members have grown kales, tomatoes and cabbages.
Members during a meeting with ALIN officials
Peter Gicheru, Secretary, Matwiku Horticulture Growers Self Help Group said that they decided to form the group as they realized that they all have a common interest. Gicheru said that initially finding a reliable market for their produce was a problem as members were selling individually thus getting low returns.
“Forming the group has enabled us to bulk produce. This has given us a good bargaining power when selling our farm produce,” said Gicheru.
With market access being a challenge Gicheru said that they have been bulking their produce and taking them to Kisii or Nairobi twice a week.
Horticulture is the most vibrant sectors in Kenya's agricultural sector and contributes immensely to the socio-economic development of the country. The sector currently records an average growth of 15% to 20% per annum.
The sub sector employs approximately 4.5 million people countrywide directly in production, processing, and marketing, while another 3.5 million people benefit indirectly through trade and other activities.
“The group members have more than 20 acres but they farm according to their ability. Most members practice crop rotation by planting maize,” said Gicheru.
Members have been meeting once per month. They have set up a revolving fund whereby each month they contribute Ksh 100. They started by each member initially saving 1,000 shares. They are now able to borrow money from the group in case one needs   to buy inputs but lacks finance.
 A member is expected to return the loan with an interest of 10%. They have set up a grace period of one month. Repayment of the loan is expected to be completed within a duration of four months as this is the time it takes for horticulture to be harvested. A member can borrow as much as six times the amount contributed.
“Horticulture farming can at times be frustrating as one can lack funds for buying inputs. The group helps members to acquire the inputs during such times. All the members have so far benefited from this,” said Gicheru.
Arid Lands Information Network officials together with group members
Gicheru said that the group has been partnering with Syngenta Kenya and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock. Syngenta has been helping them to farm more productively by providing a wide range of innovative products and solutions to the group.
Gicheru said that they intend to open an agro vet early next year so that they can start selling farm inputs to members and other farmers.
“We would like to leave a legacy that will help our children. We hope that youths will learn from us how to improve their livelihood through farming,” said Gicheru.
The group now plans to use Sokopepe to sell their produce as well as to automate their farm records. Members have already joined Farm Records Management Information System (FARMIS-Kenya).
FARMIS is a farm management and diagnostic tool based on the use of farm records. They will now be able to have access to various reports which highlight husbandry practices, market trends, weather condition and on farm challenges.
Gicheru said that they are using furrow irrigation. This is one of the most widely used type of irrigation where water is applied and distributed over the soil surface by gravity. Water has never been a problem there as most of the members have dug boreholes while others get water from a nearby dam. Soil in the area is also conducive for farming as it retains a lot of water.
The group’s main challenge has been wild animals. Most of their crops are normally destroyed by elephants.
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