Using Smallholder Farmer-Groups to Dig Out Poverty

By Isaiah Esipisu

Source: TrustMedia Alumni Blog –

After years of dependence of food aid in the semi-arid Eastern Kenya, Stephen Mwangangi from Kinyatta village in Yatta district has discovered how to keep his family food secure by using just one acre piece of land despite the droughts.

The entire region also known as Ukambani is dry. But through a church-led self help group known Christian Impact Mission, farmers have discovered means of survival – combining indigenous knowledge with emerging technologies to grow high value horticultural crops for domestic and the export market.

“On my plot, I grow maize purely for domestic consumption, and horticultural crops such as soy beans, French beans, bullet pepper, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes among many others for both domestic and the export market,” said Mwangangi.

The father of three learnt the technique of high value farming in extreme conditions two years ago, when he joined a group that has since then vowed to drive hunger and food-aid out of the entire Ukambani region.
“There is a special reason why smallholder horticultural farmers like me have to work within a group, especially if the target is the export market,” he said.

“The produce from my farm alone for example is too little that it cannot support the quantity required by the export agents. But with groups, we usually grow similar crops at the same time, then harvest and combine produce from several plots in order to achieve the required quantity,” he explained.

Further more, Mwangangi reckons that working in groups encourages experience sharing, innovation and it is an encouragement especially for smallholder farmers who might have experienced losses due to given particular reasons.

Through small groupings of up to 15 farmers, which form the larger Christian Impact Mission group, Mwangangi among other farmers have learned of different methods of adaptation to climate change, through selection of appropriate crops, rain water storage, value addition and many other methods that have helped him transform his life from dependency (on food-aid) to independence.

“Many studies have shown that most of the foodstuffs eaten worldwide is produced by smallholder farmers. Yet in our group, we have realised that such smallholder farmers cannot benefit from the high value export market if they have to work as individuals,” said Dr Bishop Titus Masika, the founder of the Christian Impact Mission which brings together 3000 households from Yatta district within Ukambani region.

Instead of working on community projects, the 3000 households have discovered that they can preserve rain water for irrigation at a household level, grow maize in nurseries for easy watering before transplanting the same into zai-pits once it rains, use method of moisture preservation in zai-pits, and grow high value horticultural crops for income generation.

Such are reasons that formed the basis for the Agricultural Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to implement a project aimed at strengthening the development of farmer-based organization – as a way of promoting the green revolution agenda in Africa.

The organisation is an international non-governmental organisation dedicated to improving of farm productivity for small-scale farmers across the continent.

Launched in on May 3, 2012, AGRA’s new project dubbed Farmer Organisation Support Centre in Africa (FOSCA) aims at strengthening managerial, organisational and technical capacity of farmers organisations with an aim of transforming them to provide demand-driven and income enhancing services to their members.

“Using FOSCA, we are targeting 220,000 smallholder farmers through not less than 70 farmer organizations across Africa,” said Dr David Ameyaw, AGRA’s Director for Monitoring and Evaluation.

Through the Christian Impact Mission, Mwangangi is able to earn at least Sh40,000 ($500) per week from the export market. “We have no particular season because we do not depend on rainfall. We use irrigation instead,” said Mwangangi.

Anita Onumah is another smallholder who hails from Kitase village, Ekropong district in Eastern Ghana.
In her early 20s, Onumah is able to pay her own college fees at the University of Ghana in Accra, thanks to her small chili pepper faming project for the export market.

“I specialise mainly in chilli farming because it doesn’t need much attention. And as a student, I can always manage it from a distance,” said the agriculture student, majoring in Post Harvest Handling at the university of Ghana.

She attributes her success to the Vegetable Producers and Exporters Association of Ghana (VPEAG), which was her link to the export market.

From a two acre piece of land, Onumah harvests 500 boxes of chili, each weighing 5.5kilograms in an average season. “Each box fetches me up to five US dollars, which earns me up to $2500 every three months,” she said.

Her produce ends up in the United Kingdom, France and Italy.

The FOSCA project will therefore target existing former groups such as the VPEAG, Christian Impact Mission among others according to Dr Ameyaw.


About meshakenya

Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture in Kenya (MESHA) is an association of communicators who are specialized in science, environment, agriculture, health, technology and development reporting.
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3 Responses to Using Smallholder Farmer-Groups to Dig Out Poverty

  1. There are very inspiring tales of successful smallholder business oriented farming in Africa which must be replicated in many other African villages. They will contribute to food security and family incomes and help meet requirements of the UN MDGs.

  2. Please come and visit Exposed Agriculture

    when you are at Gotland or send some one else.

    I forgot to say in the letter belove that I was the first farmer from Gotland in 2000 and looked at how truffles works in reality. Without cooperation France – Gotland – research we would never have been at the level we are today.

    Exposed Agriculture 2012-08-19

    I am a female farmer living at Bräntings Farm, Rute Gotland. In 7 years, I have fought in a lawsuit for the right to unaltered groundwater. Water in a perfect hydrological system. With so clean water that it can be drunk directly without purification.

    The Finnish company Nordkalk OY AB has applied for permission to make an open quarry about 1.700.000 m2 and 25 meters deep at my backyard.

    The judiciary has in the lower courts suggested that the groundwater couldnt be assured. The higher courts say otherwise. In the process, there are many question marks. Two examples of the many

    • Swedish Minister lifted away part of the Environmental Protection Agency proposed EU Natura 2000 area 2004.
    • Sweden’s environmental legislation was changed 20 days before the hearing 2009.

    Which gave the opportunity to grant permission for quarry operations.
    • Gotland has major water problems.
    • The limestone contains large pockets of relict saltwater.

    In small test pits in the area was the commitment of the company and their experts that no water should appear. That did not happen. Water flowed into. One test pit was also elevated salt values.

    In all materials, the company has cropped maps in a very efficient manner. Which means that the areas used by us peasants have not been included.

    I know that climate change has already occurred. In the autumn of 2011, I presented the first Périgord truffle (Tuber melanosporum), which scientists said 2000 was impossible to grow at Gotland. Natural habitat is the Mediterranean.

    Hereby I invite you to visit me and share more information on the farm during the period you are on the island. For those of you who are not able to visit me there is a narrative film maps and some English materials and descriptions of my activities on

    On re-hearing

    Maria Karlsson

    Facts Bräntings Farm
    Cultivated in the family since 1952, 300,000 sqm
    Truffles Production
    Saffron Cultivation
    Holiday accommodation
    Pasture for sheep and cattle
    Conservation of biodiversity in an area of 265 endangered red species

    Why this is important
    A Finnish mining company has started work on a limestone mine on the Swedish island of Gotland, putting a sensitive and protected natural environment under threat. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvardsverket) is appealing in court, but while they wait the company is going ahead with work on the mine — and only pressure on the EU Environment Commissioner can stop this now.

    Despite finding that the proposed environmental protection measures are too weak, a Swedish court has given mining company Nordkalk the right to start mining anyway. While the EPA and environmental organisations are appealing to the Supreme Court, work on the mine has already started. In addition to threatening the bordering Natura 2000 EU protected areas and the 265 endangered species found in the area, the mine will also put the island’s biggest freshwater reserve at risk. But EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik is responsible for ensuring that Sweden meets in EU environmental obligations, and he can step in and save Gotland from this mess — but only if we give him the political support he needs to interfere.

    Swedish EU parliamentarian Carl Schlyter and others are already calling on the Commissioner to intervene. Sign the petition now to add an overwhelming public call on the Commissioner to save Gotland and its protected nature areas! As a local resident myself, I’ll work with other locals opposed to the mine and environmental organisations to ensure that our voices are delivered straight to the Commissioner!
    Internationell press.pdf

  3. Meshack says:

    I think small holder is the way to go in bringing incomes to the people and giving them a fighting chance to grow as business people

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