An innovative partnership helps smallholder farmers unearth green treasures from the soil

Kiambu County’s rustic charm is matched by the warmth and friendliness of its hard-working people. Several kilometers from Kenya’s capital of Nairobi, improved agricultural practices are improving the livelihoods of families. The smallholder farmers’ determination stands firm at the odds they are up against, which includes declining soil fertility, increasingly poorly distributed rainfall as a result of climate change, and outdated agricultural methods caused by an inadequate extension.

There is a story of Public and Private Partnership working wonders and is proof that anything is possible when people work together. Optimism and teamwork are visibly forging the people of Gatundu sub-County closely together. 

An Alliance of Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is partnering with the County Government of Kiambu, seed companies, and fertilizer companies, to make the proceeds of agriculture brighter than anyone could imagine. 

Before the project, most stakeholders were indifferent to one another but are encouraged by the results of the partnership; the stakeholders are expanding their impact far and wide. 

Grappling with the challenges of hunger and poverty, all the stakeholders have ventured into a successful collaboration. To assist with the “last mile” Extension service delivery, County Government Extension Staff selected and trained self-employed Village-based Advisors (VBAs) who demonstrate improved earlier-maturing maize varieties and teach farmers on Good Agronomic Practices (GAP). 

Partner seed and fertilizer companies have provided seed of improved earlier-maturing varieties and improved fertilizer blends for Mother demonstrations on VBAs’ farms and supplied small 25g-50g packs of the seed of new, improved varieties for farmers to experiment with the improved technology on small plots of their farms. They have also supplied these inputs through Agro-dealers to enable farmers to access them locally. 

Rachel Mwangi, the Sub-County Agriculture Officer, says, “We in the County Government are working along with the National Government of Kenya to tackle one of the four main Agendas of the Government, fighting hunger. Through our partnership, I have witnessed an end of hunger through improved farming. I have seen an income increase through farming. I have seen change through farming.”

“Before these changes, Agriculture was viewed as a burden and never thought of as a way out of poverty. Apart from that, the partnership has enhanced harmony and unity in the community,” concludes Rachael.

AGRA believes that agricultural technologies and practices can only have a positive effect if they are communicated and implemented by farmers and end-users. Extension is the mechanism by which this process is achieved. Within our five-year strategy, one of the biggest challenges is how to further the reach and impact of government extension agents and create demand for improved seeds, fertilizers, and other yield-enhancing inputs. The ratio of extension staff to farmers in most of our target countries is 1:5,000. We aim to improve this ratio to 1:500.

Recognizing the growing role of the private sector in the lives and livelihoods of Africa’s farmers, our extension approach involves identifying and training self-employed village-based advisors (VBAs). VBAs are ‘lead farmers’ who are selected to share technologies and knowledge locally with fellow farmers. With connections to input companies, they help to promote quality seeds and fertilizers, together with good agricultural practices. This model has been particularly successful in Kiambu County, Kenya.

AGRA works through the Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation In Africa (PIATA). This is a unique strategic partnership launched in 2017 that enables African agriculture actors to do business differently as they support leaders to drive an inclusive agricultural transformation. PIATA members include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ.

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