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Monday, 20 June 2016

Resilience pays off as cooperative finally finds its footing

By Bob Aston
Sigoro Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd from Lembuskwen Ward in Eldama Ravine Sub County is emerging as one of the fastest growing cooperative in Baringo County. Registered as an agricultural marketing cooperative organization in October 18, 1984, the cooperative has faced its major share of challenges including suspension of its activities during a leadership struggle.
The year 2006 marked a major turning point for the cooperative as the 912-member organization elected new office bearers.
Milk being offloaded from the cooperative pickup

Mr. William Kiptum, Chairman, Sigoro Farmers Cooperative Society said that reviving the cooperative was a difficult task after previous management committee members had embezzled all the cooperative finances.

“Gaining members trust was difficult as they thought we would also squander their money. We initially had to take a loan to ensure farmers were paid every week,” said Mr. Kiptum.
The organization is helping farmers through aggregation and marketing of cereals, milk marketing, agrovet, and extension services.
Ten years later the cooperative has managed to build an office block through a loan from Skyline Sacco worth Kshs 300,000. The cooperative also has a 3 million shillings lorry. Members contributed Kshs 1 million for purchase of the lorry while 2 million shillings was a loan from Skyline Sacco.
Mr. Kiptum noted that they have been trying to integrate youths and women in the cooperative to ensure continuity. New members pay a registration fee of Kshs 200 while share capital is Kshs 6,000 per farmer.
In 2014, the cooperative took a 2 million shillings loan in order to start an agrovet. The members receive seeds, fertilizer, and other services through a check-off system. This has ensured that other traders do not exploit the members while at the same time enabling them to increase production.
The cooperative has employed a staff of four to manage their agrovet, cereals store, and dairy unit. The members supply nearly 2,500 litres of milk per day. Installed at the cooperative premises by New Kenya Co-operative Creameries Ltd (KCC) is a 5,000-litre capacity milk cooler. New KCC pays the cooperative Kshs 4,000 per month as rent.
The four staff members are ensuring that the cooperative promotes sustainable agricultural development and reconstruction through joint bulking and marketing of milk and cereals in order to have a strong bargaining power for better prices. The cooperative has also been facilitating provision of production services such as farm inputs.
Mr. Kiptum said that they have laid a lot of emphasis on membership, investments and returns, organization growth, Information and communication technology (ICT), policies and procedures, service to producers and internal control procedures.
Mr. Kiptum said that market for cereals is not a problem as they have cultivated a strong relationship with school in the area thus they have been receiving homegrown school meal programme tenders.
They also have four buying centres. They have rented four stores in the centres and a subcommittee manages each centre.
Farmers from Laikipia County during an exchange visit at Sigoro Farmers cooperative
In order to ensure that cereals are in the store throughout the year, they have devised a way of rewarding committee members by giving them 10 shillings for every bag of maize that they bring to the store.
The cooperative is also a member of Baringo Agricultural Marketing Services Cooperative Society Limited (BAMSCOS).The umbrella organization formed in August 2012 is helping to facilitate farmer’s access to profitable markets for their farm produce as well as provision of production support services and championing farmer’s interest through advocacy.
“We are building liquidity and we hope soon we will not only be a voice for farmers but we will also be a reputable agricultural marketing society in Baringo County,” said Mr. Kiptum.
To ensure all the members remain active, the cooperative has been organizing open learning days, and exhibitions aimed at building the capacity of members on milk and cereal production. Awarding active members during annual general meetings has also helped to ensure most members remain active.
The group has been keeping different accounts for each of its enterprises to help in tracking profitable enterprises. A subcommittee manages each business.
Sigoro Farmers Cooperative Society is a strong testament that strong leaderships can ensure that farmer groups can play a critical role in empowering farmers. The cooperative is among the few that pay the highest returns to farmers in Baringo County.
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