Doris Mwende’s passion for agriculture and the environment is infectious. The 26-year-old, is a renowned conservator, village-based advisor (VBA) and role model in her village in Kimiriri, Runyenjes in Embu County. She has also gained a reputation for being business savvy.
“I see big opportunities in agribusiness,” says Doris, “but my bigger vision is to become the anchor in our community ensuring farmers are linked to input suppliers, buyers as well as accessing extension services and improving their livelihoods in the process.”
Although she is a certified school teacher, the limited job opportunities in her home area found her confined to helping her parents out on the family farm growing maize, beans, vegetables as well as rearing poultry and tending to the tea and coffee cash crop.
She did all this side-by-side with community environmental conservation activities where her influence was growing. But she also noticed that the farm was not performing well. “The yields were low, especially for the food crops,” she recalls.
Doris was among the 150 village-based advisors (VBAs) chosen to participate in the AGRA-funded Regenerative Agriculture Project implemented by Farm Africa where she trained and built capacity in various practices such as mulching, minimum tillage and intercropping. Together they have reached more than 9,000 farmers with regenerative agriculture technologies and business advisory services. The project also supported her to establish a demonstration plot to share her expertise and to provide extension support to farmers.
“The transformation on my parents’ farm was almost immediate,” she enthuses. “In the last season we harvested four bags of maize, up from the previous from 1.5 bags, and eight bags of vegetables, earning us a total of Ksh 14,500. – in sales from the produce, an improvement from the previous Ksh 5,000. –“
Doris attributes her affinity for business to the project, which taught her management skills, planning, record keeping and financial literacy as well as how to form savings groups. These are the skills she has used to support improvements on her parents’ farm. “I keep up-to-date business records indicating all my expenses and incomes as a VBA and from my environmental conservation activities,” she adds. She has also joined and strengthened a saving group through which she has saved Ksh 15,000. –
In her words; “The Regenerative Agriculture Project has connected me to numerous players in the various value chains.” She has been introduced to input suppliers, processing companies, insurance agencies and financial institutions as well as benefitting from opportunities to do business with these entities.
Doris has since worked with the Agriculture and Climate Risk Enterprise Ltd. (Acre) Africa to promote crop insurance uptake in her community, earning Ksh 7,500 per month in commissions making her one among the 33 VBAs contracted by Acre Africa taking home a total of Ksh 247,500 in monthly commissions.
She is also a farmer liaison officer for Bulto Foods Ltd., the soya products manufacturer that have contracted more than 900 farmers in Embu County. She provides contracting, seed distribution, farmer organization and produce aggregation services on behalf of the company, earning herself Ksh 30,000. – in monthly fees. “I have facilitated more than 500 farmers to access Bulto Foods Ltd.,” she adds. “I am not only gaining critical agribusiness skills but earning a decent livelihood in the process.”