The Kenya Market-led Horticulture Programme (HortIMPACT) is a Dutch funded programme focused on the development of fruit, vegetable, and potato value chains. The programme capitalizes on opportunities in the Kenyan horticulture sector while addressing some of the challenges that persist in the sector. Through working with Dutch companies, the programme has provided opportunities for Kenyan farmers and companies to build on the Dutch expertise and knowledge through applying technologies and methods that support horticulture sector development. The programme does this by taking a business case approach. Companies (mainly Dutch and Kenyan) come up with at least 50% of the budget, while SNV co-invests the rest. All the business cases are led by companies that play an important role in supporting small and medium size commercial farmers to develop their business. The companies are critical in ensuring that investments that benefit farmers will be sustainable in the long run.
In collaboration with several companies, SNV implements Business Case 7 (BC7). A key component of this business case involves onsite trainings at lead farmers to groups of 20 to 50 farmers and larger events known as farmer field days where farmers from the surrounding areas can also come to learn from demonstrations of farming technologies. This particular business case builds on the success of the first HortIMPACT business case (BC 1), which focused on increasing production of horticulture products through the adoption of good agronomical practices and technologies by smallholder producers. This was done at 12 training sites across Kenya where farmers were trained in the production of tomatoes in greenhouses with the use of improved inputs such as hybrid seeds, integrated pest management, and fertilizer application. Over 4,000 small and medium sized farmers were reached in this business case, with 75% of those farmers indicating that they adopted improved agricultural technologies on their farms in the next planting seasons. The participating companies in BC1 reported that their sales in the areas where training took place increased up to 20%.
The first seven farmer field days took place at lead farmer sites in Kitengela, Solai, Naromoru, Kitale, Gilgil, Narok, and Karinde. At these farmer field days, a total of 926 farmers and 28 exhibitors took part in demonstrations of vegetable production technologies and methods, for example on planting, crop management, harvesting, and marketing. Kenya Highland Seeds (KHS) played a leading role in organizing trainings and farmer field days. Other companies involved in this business case are Koppert, Real IPM, Transglobal, CropNuts, SoilCares, Illuminum Greenhouses, Mea, Mavuno, and Syngenta. “The government of Kenya recognizes the significant role that agriculture plays in contributing to the economy. That’s why we utilized these field days to sensitize farmers on the need for soil testing and other good agricultural practices. We are most grateful to the organizers of the farmer field days.” Jackson Wachira, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries.
Cooperation was also established with Urban Coffee and Carrefour, who purchase vegetables produced by farmers. Some of the farmers present at the field days had never benefited from any training program on good agricultural practices, although a majority did benefit from extension services provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and other stakeholders. The farmer field days therefore provided opportunities for the companies to provide demonstrations on vegetables production and to market their products and services to the farmers. This business case also attracted a mix of exhibitors, with the Ministry of Agriculture featuring prominently in most of the field days. Kitale attracted the highest number of farmers (234) despite the heavy rains experienced on that day and the remoteness of the field day event to some of the farmers. The table below shows the number of farmers and the percentage of women and men per farmer field day site.
Farmers reacted positively to the opportunity to attend the farmer field days. In particular, farmers were enthusiastic about the netting technology as well as drip irrigation that went with it. Farmers were also impressed by the grow bag technology of Real IPM, something that they had not encountered before.
This was also a marketing platform for all the companies that participated in this year’s field days. Equity Bank and Metropolitan Sacco, for instance, were present in Kitengela and were keen to educate the farmers on their latest agricultural products and services. Soil Cares was present to educate farmers on the importance of performing soil tests before farming. Some made sales in the products between 500 and 2,000 Kenya shillings. They said they were more satisfied with getting feedback from the farmers on how they could improve marketing of their products.