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Unlocking Kenyan farmers' potential: the village-based advisor business model

Photo: Lisa Murray Photo: Lisa Murray

Farmers in Kenya receive support from agricultural extension officers who provide them with technical agricultural advice and the necessary inputs and services to support their agricultural production.

However, with the national ratio of farmer to agricultural extension officer at a stark 1:400¹, smallholder farmers in Kenya’s Trans Nzoia County have been struggling to get hold of timely information on new farming technology and market information.

As a result, farmers are suffering from low yields and a lack of access to profitable markets, thus intensifying poverty in the region.

Armed with the knowledge gained from training organised by Farm Africa’s Growing Futures project in 2019, 36-year-old Lilian Wolayo, a small-scale farmer from Bondeni Village in Trans Nzoia, took it upon herself to actively help farmers in her village to grow quality vegetables, earn good money and improve their livelihoods.

Lilian is one of 67 village-based advisors (VBAs) recruited by the Growing Futures project. Farm Africa, with co-funding from the Medicor Foundation, introduced a VBA extension model after identifying the extension services gap and availability of passionate and well-informed farmers like Lilian. The VBA model empowers young people and women smallholder farmers to provide extension services and linkages to markets and inputs as a business.

Lilian provides support in horticultural production, as well as linking farmers in Trans Nzoia and Elgeyo Marakwet counties to export and domestic vegetable buyers.

“My work as a VBA is to keep records of my farmer group, making sure that farmers are using the approved chemicals, training them in good agricultural practices, linking them to markets and helping them to get good seeds, chemicals and fertilisers,” Lilian noted.

Every week, some of the 200 farmers in Lilian’s group produce three tonnes of French beans, which are sold to the export buyer Vegpro. From that, Lilian makes a commission, which helps her to buy household necessities.

“I enjoy being a VBA because I like teaching people how to take care of their crops. Being a VBA has also helped me to have a good relationship with my community. I feel good when I see other farmers benefitting from my services,” narrated Lilian.

So far, the VBAs have been linked to two exporters, with more links to buyers being developed.

Sabrina Elba, co-founder of S’ABLE Labs and Farm Africa supporter, met Lilian when she visited Farm Africa’s Growing Futures project in 2022. During the visit, Lilian explained how Farm Africa has supported her farming business and why empowering women is so important.

Watch their conversation here.

S'ABLE Labs is pledging 5% of the profit of all product sales to Farm Africa, with a minimum donation of £15,000 a year.


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