Laikipia Smallholder Farmers : What’s Holding Them Back?

A member of Laiconar and EMU-SACCO practicing conservation agriculture in Laikipia north

Agriculture contributes significantly to Laikipia’s economy. It is also the largest employer, with smallholder farmers making up almost two-thirds of our agricultural sector. They also play an important role in aspects of sustainable development. This includes being a bulwark against hunger and poverty in rural areas.

Yet the majority still struggle to access affordable financial services to help them develop their farming operations and livelihoods.  Smallholder agriculture production frequently suffers from a series of negative consequences. For example, the financial inability to adopt modern technologies, or to access information in response to climate change, increases their vulnerability on a number of fronts and leads to food insecurity and malnutrition.

Laikipia County Natural Resources Network (LAICONAR) is a membership organization made up of 31 smallholder groups that cut across Laikipia County.  We provide linkages to agricultural extension services that include innovative production systems and integration of extremely poor and marginalized groups through farmers’ groups.

Our approach promotes financial inclusion – it’s critical to ensure all people have equal opportunities to access and use financial services. Key gaps exist in water financing and marketing.

Without access to basic financial services, our farmers descend into a  vicious cycle of income inequality, poverty and poor socioeconomic development.

This affects not only the smallholder farmers, but their children, households, communities and the economy.

Partnerships are important. Laiconar, County Governments, Mount Kenya Ewaso Water Partnership, Laikipia Farmers Association are among other private and non-governmental organizations that have a common interest in the future of smallholder agriculture.

These groups have come together under the Laikipia Forum and partner to implement and support strategies to bridge these gaps in smallholder agriculture.

The best example is through the Ewaso Maji Users Sacco (EMU Sacco), a savings and credit organization of smallholder farmers. The Sacco is the first of its own kind to finance water conservation and management linked to smallholder agriculture, thus creating a window for small farmers to access financing to address the key challenges affecting them.

EMU Sacco has engaged Laiconar to link its members with access to the following products. Water infrastructure loans which are cheapest at an 0.8 % reducing rate. This loan rates provides the farmer with the best opportunity to harvest water. The farmer is now able to access materials to harvest water and to install smart technologies, via the power of collective bargaining and purchasing, from companies like Vattan Plastics.

Short term agriculture loans are tailored towards horticulture and contract farming, allowing farmers to borrow horticulture loans and repay within the crop cycle.

Group loans from the Sacco allow the farmers to pool resources, co-guarantee members and also aggregate produce for marketing purposes. This provides opportunities for the least marginalized and the youth to engage in agriculture business.

Laiconar, along with EMU Sacco, is currently engaging its farmers to produce flowers for Kutoka Ardhini, a company that extracts essential oils in Nyeri County.

This is a unique approach that is both helping Laiconar and Emu Sacco grow its membership, while at the same empowering the smallholder farmer increase incomes and reduce water conflicts.

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