Kitui County forms part of Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands. It is one of the most food insecure regions of Kenya, with more than 60% of the population relying on food aid. Poverty levels in Kitui are among the highest in Kenya and are still rising, despite falls in many other areas in the country. Many people still rely on subsistence, rain-fed agriculture that is highly vulnerable to drought, resulting in low productivity.
To help address these challenges, Farm Africa worked with 480 smallholder farmers to produce certified seeds for drought-tolerant crops, generating income for the seed producers and making high quality seed available for neighbouring farmers to help boost yields.
Farmers were encouraged to work collectively in producer groups, which helped them increase production volumes and profit through joint marketing. Agronomy training was provided to improve crop production and postharvest handling; business training was given to enable farmers to access commercial markets at competitive prices.
Improved drought-tolerant crop varieties such as sorghum, green grams, pigeon peas, and cowpeas, have proven to be successful in water-scarce conditions. However, these varieties were not being widely adopted by many small-scale farmers, due to unavailability in rural areas, price and caution. Many farmers were reluctant to invest without seeing the benefits first-hand. Farm Africa adopted a Community-Based Seed System (CBSS) model that provided technical support to farmers producing quality seeds. The seeds were fully inspected by government agencies, and subsequently made available to other farmers via established agro dealer networks. The programme also built links with the private sector in order to make it sustainable.
Farm Africa has signed a memorandum of understanding with FreshCo Seeds, which provides high quality parental seed to farmers and then buys back the multiplied seeds. Under this agreement, the farmers that are registered as official seed producers with the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) and have their crops inspected and certified.