Strengthening farmers organizations: the journey of participants from 6 African countries through knowledge and innovations

9th October 2017, Nairobi - Kenya

Procasur Africa's Learning Route: Linking smallholders to commercialization Practices: The case of Farmers Organizations in the Kenyan dairy sector brought together 21 participants from 6 different countries implementing six different IFAD funded projects - Cameroon (Agricultural Development Support Project-PADFA) and Du Conseil d’Administration), Kenya (Smallholder Dairy Commercialization Programme, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries), Malawi (Sustainable Agricultural Production Programme and Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development), Rwanda (Rwanda Dairy Development Project-RDDP and Nyagatare Dairy Farmers Union-NDFU), Ghana (Rural Enterprises Programme-REP) and Madagascar (Program for Vocational Training and Improvement of Agricultural Productivity-FORMAPROD and Malagasy Dairy Board MDB). Each country bringing diversity and innovative analysis to play. Thanks to the structure of each group, bringing a mix of  project staff, government  representatives, leaders of  farmers organizations and small scale farmers the participants had the opportunity to see the two case studies from the Kenyan dairy sector through a variety of  analytical frameworks.

During a  Learning Route participants get together in a practical and interactive setting that promotes direct and active learning, and allows the  host country,  in this case  Kenya, to share their best practices, innovative tools, techniques, and approaches as they promote smallholder commercialization initiatives. During the past week, the different IFAD funded projects put all their analytical focus on dairy value chains, and how the host organizations have successfully contributed towards integrating smallholder farmers into commercialization through the cooperative model. Through a mix of both theory (workshop presentations) and practical field experiences from selected cases in Uasin Gishu and Nyandarua counties of Kenya each participant had  the opportunity to look at the different innovative possibilities for their own projects.

In Kenya the participants will have the opportunity to use different analytical knowledge management and team building exercises from which they  will not only take t the theoretical outcomes but also the knowledge of how to work in a group towards innovative outcomes.   On day one they were taken through an induction process where together with Procasur  they established the learning objectives and had the possibility to be introduced to the whole team.

The morning was opened by a distinguished guest,  Dr. Kiptarus: Director of livestock production: State Department of Livestock Kenya. Who welcomed the participant to the Learning Route. During his opening speech he  provided the group with key highlights about the dairy sector in Kenya. Dr kiptarus key points included  his emphatic remarks about  commercialization of agricultural activities  as  the engine of economic development in Africa and particularly in Kenya given that smallholders farmers constitute 80% of marketed agricultural products. His speech  also gave the participants important facts about the  dairy sub-sector and its rapid  growth while reminding them that the current growth does not match the projected demand for dairy products. Mr Kiptarus also made a call for innovative approaches that will guarantee transformation of the dairy sector from subsistence farming  to  viable sustainable commercial oriented enterprises. This was the first speech of the morning  and it already  set the tone for participants to think  deeper about farmer organizations and how if they are  run efficiently through systems that will link smallholder farmers to commercialization they can be the engine of agricultural development.

Currently, the government of Kenya is investing in promoting production, production efficiency, and sustainable use of land resources and creation of market linkages for farmers. By doing this, the government has put in place interventions that focus on policy and regulatory environment, strengthening of farmer organizations, increasing of livestock productivity and increasing market linkages for milk and dairy products.

During the first day Gerald Katothya introduced himself as the technical coordinator of the Learning Route. Gerald described the Learning Route process as a platform that exposes participants to practical aspects of a process with the aim of understanding what makes it work and learn from it. The Learning Route in Kenya aims at improving the understanding of the visiting participants on how to strengthen farmer organizations capacities aimed at integrating smallholder farmers into commercialization modes. This goals are to be achieved through activities and tools like the case analysis framework. Which is to act as a guide for  understanding the internal organization and governance structures of farmer organizations and other coordination mechanisms that link farmers to commercialization, dairy commercialization service delivery models and interventions applied by dairy development programs to strengthen farmer organizations.

Already before lunch all participants found themselves involved in  an interesting  dialogue with Norbert Tuyishime. Norbert  shared the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF) experience as a regional farmer organization engaged in policy and political dialogue processes. The EAFF supports its member countries through apex farmer organizations to participate in discussions around regional policies and protocols, participation in agricultural budget analysis processes and influencing  on the regional trade policies and standards.

Catherine Kilelu, Project Manager for the Wageningen University 3R project in Kenya, was able to share with the participants of the Learning Route 3R’s experiences and their trade and investment approach to commercialization of the dairy sector by supporting dairy smallholder farmers to conduct farming as a business, integrate farmers into markets and strengthening the competitiveness and sustainability of the smallholder farmers. 3R also promotes the adoption of dairy technologies. She noted that, though the Kenyan dairy sector is very advanced compared to peers in the region, it still faces by a myriad of challenges  and so there is space for innovations. Some of the challenges Katherine mentioned include: high cost of production, milk quality and safety issues, gender and social exclusion and climate change, among others. In order to build entrepreneurial capacities for dairy smallholder farmers 3R believes there is a need to: develop relevant business models, develop youth led dairy models, develop dairy business models, develop quality based milk payment system, establish practical training centres and promote low emission resilient production systems. The model is also advocating for the promotion of technologies that are promising for both the youth and women.

Procasur as an organization that acts as a knowledge broker for the South and its main mandate is to identify best practices and facilitate knowledge sharing. During the Learning Route, Procasur expects the participants to share experiences and learn from the Kenyan cases through a process of analyzing the innovative solutions and evaluating them against what is applicable in their context. The ideal is to establish together with every team what can be adopted and adapted when back in their countries.

The learning Route participants first destination was Kinangop (Nyandarua county) in the central region of Kenya each IFAD funded project was  called to present their projects, share their experiences on the LR topic and their expectations of the training through an activity called the experiences fair.At the end of the session ,many participants shared how, for them, the value of the activity is in discovering how the challenges affecting smallholder farmers in Africa are often similar and crosscutting in the region. Often revolving around high cost of production, climate change, and challenges with accessing finances, lack of training, poor infrastructure among others.

In this Learning Route where all participants are members of IFAD funded projects, each project was able to communicate to the different countries the efforts IFAD is making, in collaboration with other partners and including respective country governments, to contribute to poverty reduction, food and nutrition security. Common and cutting across interventions include among others: capacity building and training, adaptive research, commercialization, market linkages creation, capacity enhancement in good agricultural practices and enhancement of competitiveness
Finally, we want to share some of the main expectations that were expressed by the participants of the Learning Route during the first day of our journey through knowledge:

  • Sharing of experiences and establishing reasons for success and or failure with the case studies
  • Understanding some of the sustainable funding mechanisms for farmer organizations in Kenya
  • Understanding the process of reducing the cost of production at farmer level
  • Understanding how farmer organizations in Kenya deal with governance and management issues
  • Gaining an understanding on how farmer organizations were being supported through public private partnerships
  • Gaining an understanding on the innovative approaches used by framer organizations to ensure their growth and sustainability
  • Finally, understand how farmer organizations are organized in Kenya achieving effective service delivery to members including facilitating the access to markets and marketing allied complementary activities.

PROCASUR, the participants and the hosts of the LR  are committed to facilitate and contribute during the next days  to the activities and the development of each country's innovation plan  allowing the lessons learned in Kenya to be adapted and replicated in different countries and contexts.