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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Farmer’s livelihood improving through CBO

By Bob Aston
Schemers Community Based Organization (CBO) in Sambut area of Kamagut Ward, Eldoret West Sub County is changing the lives of more than 200 farmers. The CBO helps farmers from the period of planting to harvesting and selling their produce at better prices. This ensures that farmers improve their livelihood through their agricultural enterprises.
On August 12, 2015, a group of 35 farmers drawn from various Maize Value Chain Groups (VCG’s) in Laikipia County travelled a distance of more than 360 kilometres to Schemers CBO to learn more about the organization. The Agricultural Sector Development Support Programme (ASDSP)-Laikipia supported the farmers visit.
Mr. Isaac Too, Chairman Schemers CBO informed the farmers that students started the organization in 2006 as a self-help group. It later became a CBO in 2009. This was to enable the group to access the World Food Programme (WFP) market. The main objective was to assist the member’s access market for their produce.
Mr. Too showing the Laikipia farmers a section of the warehouse

“We are trying to ensure enhanced food security, improved livelihood and that farmers enjoy economies of scale. We are also ensuring that we have a bargaining power when seeking for a market,” said Mr. Too. 

Agricultural enterprises
Most of the members do not have to worry about market as they usually aggregate their produce at the Schemers CBO warehouse. Non-members can also store cereals at the warehouse at a fee.
The three (3) million shillings warehouse constructed in a one and a half acre farm holds 8,000 bags. Maize is stored under Warehouse Receipting System. The system is helping the group reduce uncertainty and enhance efficiency in cereal marketing. Mobilizing agricultural credit through the system has also been easy.
The farm also hosts an Agrovet, an office block, a posho mill and a green house. The various investments are through member’s contribution, donations, and loans.
Mr. Too said that they borrow money from lending institutions to boost their farming activities. Last year alone they borrowed over Kshs 100 million from K-Rep Bank, Equity Bank and Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) mainly to purchase inputs.
The group started with a membership of 28 and registration fee of Kshs. 500. New members now have to register and buy shares worth Kshs. 50,000.  New members can pay the amount in agreed installments.
In 2013, the CBO won the African Farmers Organization Award (AGOYA) in Accra, Ghana. The Award came with a cash prize of Kshs. 600,000. The manager has also travelled to Rome courtesy of the group.
Meetings and savings
Members meet every Sunday at 3 pm to discuss progress of the CBO and various activities that they intend to undertake during the week.
The Laikipia County farmers sharing ideas with Schemers CBO officials
They do savings of Kshs. 200 per week for each member. The group has already saved in excess of Kshs. 8 million in Equity Bank, K-rep Bank, and AFC. 
Each member also contributed Kshs. 10,000 for building an office block. The office block worth Kshs. 1.5 million houses a store, clerk and manager’s office, as well as a loans office.
Melky Zedeck, Schemers CBO Loans officer noted that they have mobilized their own savings to start giving members loans. 
The SACCO has already been in operation for six (6) months now. They are planning to give out over Kshs. 4 million as loans to members. The CBO is giving loans amounting to three times the member’s savings.
Partners and stakeholders
Mr. Too said that the support provided to the CBO by partners that include; WFP, SNV- Netherlands Development Organization, Eastern Africa Grain Council, Agri Chain Development, K-Rep Bank, Equity Bank, AFC, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Livestock has enabled the group to undertake many activities on behalf of the members.
Last year, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Felix Koskei donated a greenhouse to the group. They have already prepared a tomato nursery. They will transplant in the next two weeks. The Government will support the group until after their first harvest.
The CBO has been supplying grains to WFP since 2010. They are also supplying cereals through Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP), millers and individual farmers.
The Laikipia County farmers posing for a photo with Schemers CBO officials
WFP usually buy the maize at between Kshs. 2,800 and Kshs. 3,400 a bag between April and July when there is shortage of the grains. They supply an average of 3,000 bags of maize and 2,000 bags of beans annually.
“Our members do not need to sell cereals to other traders as they are able to get better prices for their produce through the CBO. Our success has made many organizations to want to associate with us,” said Mr. Too.
EAGC has donated a digital weighing scale, stitching machine, moisture meter, and computers to the CBO. They have also received a laptop from SNV. WFP has also donated various equipment’s for the warehouse. They have also installed a computerized system that reflects all transactions.
Mr. Too said that they have been buying cereals from members and non-members at the prevailing market price. Farmers receive the additional amount of money received from sale of cereals although less Kshs. 100 per bag. This is to offset the various expenses incurred by the CBO. Non-members do not benefit as profits made from sale of their cereals goes to the CBO.
The need to start other income generating activities has prompted the CBO to diversify to other areas. Soon they will be involved in poultry and dairy cow farming. They intend to employ a farm manager once they start the new enterprises.
Access to certified seeds, subsidized government fertilizer, and market used to be a challenge but the group has managed to address them.
The future of Schemers CBO looks bright. Farmers are not only benefiting through the CBO but they have also been able to improve their livelihood by starting other enterprises through the profits accrued from sale of the produce.
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