Oranges, mangoes, pigeon peas and green grams are becoming a key source of income for many households in Makueni County and the lower Eastern region, however marketing innovations especially by farmers, have not moved at the same pace. While direct market and other formal channels offer better terms such as high prices, few farmers know where to sell their products or seek to sell their limited volumes individually which is less appealing to buyers. It is clear that government and other stakeholders in agribusiness have a role to play in supporting farmers to develop linkages with these channels by organizing forums where farmers and the buyers can meet and engage in more structured linkages, and that this is most effective when they work together leveraging their comparative advantages.
In July 2016 Global Communities held a consultative meeting with Makueni County government led by Governor Kivutha Kibwana. The discussions centered on partnership building to support farmers to increase their output and incomes through improving farmer cooperatives and ways to link farmers to potential markets and access to financial capital. “When we produce mangoes, green grams or oranges, market fail us. There is critical need to have structured markets for our famers. The county government has tried to provide financial services to famers but there is still a gap that need to be filled” said Governor Kibwana. This followed a similar visit by the Governor Kitui County, Dr. Julius Malombe in May who expressed a similar opinion. It was agreed that Global Communities will engage further with these two Counties and develop a partnership agreement which would be most beneficial to the farmers and people of these Counties.
Global Communities is a non-governmental organization supporting SMEs in agribusiness through United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – funded Agricultural Investment for Market Stimulation (AIMS), and USAID’s Enabling Market Integration through Rural Group Empowerment (EMIRGE) which supports youth empowerment in urban Nairobi, farmers cooperatives in Makueni and Kitui Counties to start cooperatives which will enable them pull resources together and command huge markets for their commodities and services. These two programs are working closely through shared goals and have been reaching out to Counties which are willing to prioritize farming and cooperatives as a business model to maximize social and economic benefits to members. AIMS is also supporting actors in grains, pulses, horticulture and dairy value chains to expand through access to market and finance which have been the hardest obstacles for farmers to maximize their income and production. Combining better financing with broader market access will enable more voluminous and efficient agribusiness trade among a wider range of agribusinesses.
During the meeting it was clear that there is critical need for collaborative efforts between government and non-governmental organizations in spurring development not just at national level, but also in the devolved units “Our main challenge is to get people to trust their governments and understand that just like NGOs, these governments have specific mandates to deliver. It is important that people understand that governments all over the world cannot fix all the problems but through collaboration with NGOs and other actors, sustainable development can be achieved,” said Professor, Kivutha Kibwana.