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Innovative partnerships changing farmers fortunes in Kiambu county



In 2000, Lawrence Ng’ang’a abandoned his second-hand clothes business stall to venture into farming and he has never looked back. The father of four points to an unfriendly business environment at the time, forcing his switch to agriculture, as a turning point in his life.

In the intervening years, Ng’ang’a, now 56, has been invested in horticulture farming, specifically broccoli and cauliflower on his two-acre piece of land just outside Kimende town in Kiambu’s Lari constituency.

“When I ventured into farming, I set my mind that this business will support my family and this has enabled me to educate my children over the last 21 years,” Ng’ang’a said.

He says farming like any other business requires constant learning to understand the agricultural needs of the business and the state of markets.

Ng’ang’a’s preference for broccoli and cauliflower, he says, is dictated by price dynamics in comparison to other crops. For a long time, he had invested in cabbage farming but the crop couldn’t fetch enough to sustain his family.

“When some crops flood the market, as is often the case with cabbage, common with farmers in this area, we can hardly recoup the costs of inputs,” he laments.

He has countered challenges on access to markets through partnerships with U-Farm Holdings Ltd, producers and suppliers of certified organic, locally-grown produce and farm products.

The partnerships provide linkages to the market through consumers and suppliers who access the crops from his farm. This, he says, is a favourable approach to curbing losses on the farm.

He lauds U-farm for providing these options and empowering local farmers and producers through connections back to the roots.

Benefitting from these extension services has also empowered farmers to produce organic food, grown without the use of harsh synthetic chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers.

Lawrence has also partnered with East Africa Seeds Company Ltd, providers of quality seeds and services to the farming community around East Africa.

Like other partnerships, this has also enabled him to embrace organic farming methods. The provision of top tier seeds and services to farmers has created employment opportunities across the value chain.

Harvesting begins within 60 days of transplanting the plants from the nursery bed, extolling the quality of seeds availed by the two companies.

“We prefer seeds that yield produce in the shortest time but also give high yields. Through the partnerships, we get seeds to conduct trials in assessing seed quality. Over time I have identified the best seeds that work for me,” he says, speaking on the identification of quality seeds.

“Currently we are selling the broccoli at Sh40 per kilogram. Normally each plant will weigh about 800 grams. I can make more compared to cabbages which are fetching Sh5 per piece,” he says, adding that broccoli has always fetched favourable prices.

He plants about 12,600 plants each season making about Sh300,000 when the market is promising.

In addition, he says through training offered by the county government, he has acquired sufficient knowledge in crop management. He is a beneficiary of the Village-Based Advisors (VBAs) program adopted by Kiambu County.

As a VBA, Lawrence is actively involved in the dissemination of information and farm inputs to farmers through a program he says has revolutionized farming in the county. More than 400 VBAs have been selected and trained by the County’s Agricultural Officers who are responsible for the extension. 

According to AGRA (Alliance of Green Revolution in Africa) extension agent-to-farmer ratio in Africa commonly varies from 1:3,000 to 1:10,000. They say VBAs have enabled farmers to build capacities about the value of using improved seed, use of appropriate fertilizers and employing good agronomical practices.

AGRA is partnering with the County Government of Kiambu, seed companies, and fertilizer companies to empower farmers on good agronomic practices.

Lawrence says he has also leveraged strategic partnerships with financial institutions to finance his business. He praises Tai SACCO for availing affordable credit to tea farmers.

“There is a need for farmers to form and join co-operatives to pool resources and form partnerships with service providers,” he said, adding that his vision is to mobilize horticulture farmers in the region to form a co-operative.

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