The SALI (Strengthening Agricultural Livelihoods) project in Kenya is an example of a successful project that has now left ITL. It has been scaled up to reach a far wider base of beneficiaries.
Phase One of the ITL project, focused on promoting better agricultural practices among farmers and pioneering the sending of critical weather forecasts by text message.
Phase Two, which finished in October 2016, focused on strengthening marketing associations. These associations played a vital role in disseminating information, training producers and giving them market access. The impact of project has been significant:
- A 66% increase in land-use by farmers.
- Increase in crop yields by nearly a third.
- A 25% increase in farmers’ incomes.
Smallholder producers left isolated
Smallholder farmers in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands struggle to adapt to increasingly harsh conditions. Climate change means rainfall is unreliable. Traditional methods for anticipating rainfall, such as the flowering of the acacia trees and the appearance of dragonflies, are no longer effective. Too often, the seeds planted by farmers go to waste. In addition, they struggle with limited access to equipment and worsening soil quality. All of this leaves farmers unable to grow the quality and quantity of produce they need to make a living.
The ITL approach
The original SALI project organised 2,000 farmers from Embu county in eastern Kenya into 20 producer groups. This gave them collective strength in sharing resources as well as bargaining power with buyers. Farmers also benefitted from critical weather-forecast information sent by text message. However, the three overarching marketing associations weren’t connecting the groups with the training, information and market access they were designed to provide.
Phase two of the project worked on strengthening the marketing associations as well as the capacity of the farmers themselves to improve their productivity.
The main intervention came in the form of monthly forums, held by the marketing associations. These were attended by representatives of the producer groups, the sub-county agricultural officer and individuals from the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture. Training was given in these forums, which farmers could then replicate in their groups, as well as information on climate and markets. The result was a flow of accurate information between farmers and sellers, giving both sides confidence.
Achieving sustainable change
Outcome 1: A 66% increase in land used by farmers.
By the end of the project, farmers had increased their acreage use: from an average 1.2 at the beginning of the project to 2 acres. This was the result of increased confidence, based on the promised orders from buyers, achieved through the marketing associations.
Outcome 2: Crop yields increased by nearly a third.
Production per acre of green grams (mung beans), one of the three crops grown by farmers, increased by 31.25%. Again, this is partly attributable to promised orders through the marketing associations, as well as improved agricultural techniques.
Outcome 3: A 25% increase in farmers’ incomes.
This is a result not only of improved yields, but also farmers’ improved ability to negotiate with buyers.
Learnings and their applications
A key learning was that farmers are primarily confident in, and good at, production. Attempts, at the time, to encourage them to become entrepreneurial, commercial specialists proved too demanding. The other key learning was that the number of partners in the value chain, between the farmer and the buyer, was inefficient and could be reduced.
Based on the success and learnings from phases 1 and 2, the project has been scaled up, leaving ITL and having an impact on a wider number of farmers. The project is now working with 4,000 farmers across three additional counties in Kenya.