After completing my secondary school education, I ventured into farming as a way to earn income. Agriculture was not new to me at all since my parents were farmers. Furthermore, I had studied agriculture in school and was confident that I would succeed. All seemed to be going well until harvest time came. I had a bountiful harvest that surpassed my storage capacity. The market glut was overwhelming and farmers desperately were trying to get decent prices for their produce. I had rented land to till my crops and the landlord would not allow me to construct a store on his property. In the long run, I ended up selling my crops through middle-men at throw-away prices to prevent them from going bad. This was a very frustrating experience, as it was for many farmers in my community.
About three years ago, we created a self-help group of 30 people from our church called the Kolman Group. As the group grew stronger, we decided to empower the community around us by supporting farmers from our village Chepkanga, even as we sought to improve our own individual farming. With support from the Ministry of Agriculture, we were able to acquire fertilizers for the farmers from the Kenya Cereal’s Board. We also purchased a piece of land in Chepkanga village that we intended to use to impact the local farmers. As we brainstormed on how to best utilize the land, I had a great idea: Why not put up a store? My friends agreed that the idea was viable. We embarked on strategizing as to how to mobilize funds for building the store and in a most happy coincidence, an announcement for the Bayer volunteering program was made. Without hesitation, I handed in my proposal and managed to secure a grant to the value of €5,000. The grant came as a huge relief and shortened our time-plan from a three-year schedule to an end-of-the-year goal!
We had the ground-breaking for the store in spring 2016. Thanks to the project funding from the Bayer Cares Foundation, we have sufficient funds for construction materials. Our savings as a group will cover labor costs and the county government is really supporting us in the area of transport. The store initiative is as good as complete. The store will be certified by the East Africa Grain Council, enabling farmers to get loans of up to 80% of the value of their produce in storage, just by producing a receipt from the store to designated banks.
Apart from storage, we also plan to use some of the land for demonstrations by companies on the different variety of crops so as to enlighten farmers. Companies will grow their crops and when they are ready for harvest, we will conduct a field day for the farmers. We also intend to train and advise farmers accordingly, provide crop protection products in partnership with Bayer, market the farmers’ produce and create employment for the staff working in the store.
I appeal to my fellow colleagues to also work with their communities and see how they can provide long-lasting solutions to some of the most glaring challenges that we are facing today. The funds are ready and available; take a bold step towards making your community a better place. Make an impact.