The “Lolgorian Grain Growers Self-Help Group” was formed in Kenya’s Transmara district in 2009. The remote but fertile area has for years been affected by disputes over land and cattle between pastoral communities and farming communities.
The Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture therefore implemented a programme called “Farming for Peace” in Transmara. “When our farmers left pastoralism and gradually got into farming, they stopped fighting”, says the districts’ Agriculture Officer Ernest Muendo.
The arrival of Purchase for Progress (P4P) in the area at the end of 2009 also helped, as it represented an important market outlet for quality food in the remote area.
“Before, there was no reliable market, so the groups did not last. In the last three years, new groups have formed, and many of them are surviving, because they see a market. Other traders and millers are now coming to Transmara, like the Lesiolo Grain Handlers who want to partner with P4P in Transmara,” says Muendo. According to him, P4P is contributing to the stabilization of the area, attracting new buyers and encouraging the building of rural infrastructure.
P4P also had a huge impact on the cooperative spirit of the farmers: “It was difficult to gain trust from the community, because people have different ideas. It is difficult for leaders to sell their ideas when 90% of the community is illiterate. But farmers benefitted from the WFP contracts: each received according to what he had given. Now there is increased benefits and increased confidence. Many members have moved from doubting Thomas’ to trusting Peters’” said a leader of the cooperative.
The Lolgorian group was formed because of the WFP market: “Initially, we were a group of 10 Massai farmers who were looking for buyers. We learned that a widows group in Angata was selling to WFP, so we enquired how we could also do that. We were told that farmers must be organized, and must be able to bulk at least a truck-load. So we each came with 10-20 friends and we registered the group with the Cereal Growers Association. The newly formed group, the “Lolgorian Grain Growers Self-help group”, had approximately 60 members. Now, two years later, we already have 180 active members,” says a representative of the organisation.
Before P4P, the farmer used to produce mainly for their own consumption and sell small quantities to local traders for cash. With access to the WFP market, farmers have substantially increased production and subsequently the share of their surplus channelled through the cooperative, and decreased the share sold at the farm-gate. The share sold to traders remains at 30-40% of the surplus to get cash immediately at harvest time to pay school fees and prepare for the next agricultural season.
All farmers say that since joining the cooperative, they could increase yields and acreage under cultivation, and that the major trigger for this was the prospect of an assured market with WFP.
In addition to improved incomes that come from improved quality, the farmers emphasized that now they eat good quality maize at home, and that “good quality is good for your health”.
Despite its youth, the Group has met the WFP quality standards in all three contracts so far. “When you want to sell your cow, you tell the buyer how fat and fertile your cow is. Now we can tell and show to the buyers the good quality of our grain, and get a better price,” said another leader of the cooperative.
In a very short time, with no previous experience in group marketing, the newly formed group managed to sign and deliver on three contracts with WFP. All members and leaders agree that the successful delivery on the first WFP contract largely contributed to build trust, an issue with which the cooperative had initially struggled. “Our major constraints now are zebras and elephants, and rodents who eat our maize,” they say.