Each year, the average Kenyan consumes 98 kilograms of maize, the staple of the Kenyan diet. At the same time, maize prices in Kenya are among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa, and the poorest quarter of the population spends 28 percent of its income on the crop. Inefficient production and marketing in the maize subsector contribute to economic stagnation and poverty in Kenya. Increased productivity and efficient markets, in conjunction with rational government policies, can dramatically alter the economic contribution of the subsector. With proper reforms in place, the maize industry will become a key element in accelerating growth and reducing poverty. However, poor rains, a reduction in planting after the 2008 post-election violence, and a decrease in fertilizer application due to higher prices have resulted in lower harvest yields for smallholder farmers in 2009. Kenya normally has a deficit in maize, which is filled by informal cross-border trade from Uganda and Tanzania; however, the present deficit is so large (estimated at 400,000 to 700,000 MT) that imports from the international market have been required.
ACDI/VOCA implemented the Kenya Maize Development Program (KMDP), a USAID-funded, $11.2 million program, from 2002 to 2010 in consortium with the Cereal Growers Association of Kenya (CGA), Farm Input Promotions Africa Ltd. (FIPS) and the Kenya Agricultural Commodity Exchange (KACE). KMDP also worked in close collaboration with private sector service providers and various Kenyan government agencies.
KMDP activities focused mainly in the high- and mid-potential maize producing districts of Kenya’s Western and Rift Valley provinces with initial activities in 2002 in Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Nandi (Rift Valley Province), Bungoma and Lugari Districts, expanding in 2004 to Kisii, Nyamira, Gucha, Nakuru, Bomet, Trans Mara, Nyandarua, and parts of Eastern Province.
Originally a four-year cooperative agreement, KMDP was progressively extended to a final end date of June 30, 2010. In the additional years, KMDP was able to consolidate gains made through its original mandate and include alternative staple crops Pulses and tuber crops in its portfolio. From 2002–2010, KMDP tripled smallholder farmer maize yields from a baseline output of eight bags The 90 kg bag is the unit of measure in Kenya an acre to an average yield of 26 bags an acre. The increase in marketable surplus resulted in increased earnings of $208 million for 370,000 smallholder farmers. Of these farmers, nearly 105,000 completed ACDI/VOCA’s training course in Farming as a Business (FaaB). The growth in incomes was influenced by farmers learning the advantages of improved farm inputs, producing consistent quality grain and linking directly with the private sector’s business development services. In 2008, Tegemeo reported that 98 percent of farmers targeted by KMDP used improved seed.
Over 400,000 farmers have visited project demonstration plots that feature better agronomic practices in western Kenya and the Rift Valley region. Farmers witness these new practices and assess successes firsthand to gain confidence to try these methods on their own farms.
KMDP increased production of maize in target areas overall and three- to four-fold in selected project areas through practical, on-farm training on improved varieties of seed and fertilizer, conservation tillage and other natural resources management practices. In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), a network of 160,000 largely private sector-funded demonstration plots were also established. KMDP data indicates that with USAID support, farmers produced an additional 133,380 MT of maize in the 2009–2010 season, compared to the beginning of the project. The government of Kenya recently published its Agriculture Sector Development Strategy) (GOK, July 2010) Agriculture Sector Development Strategy (2010-2020), Government of Kenya, July, 2010. indicating that maize production grew from 2.4 million tons in 2002 to 3.2 million tons in 2006.
KMDP facilitated linkages between farmer organizations and private sector players and stimulated incentives for better organized smallholder organizations and improved services to members. KMDP worked with existing farmer groups and assisted with the organization of new smallholder maize farmers. Tegemeo reported in 2008 that 95 percent of farmers in KMDP’s geographic regions participated in farmer groups, and farmer organizations enabled smallholders to work collectively to reduce costs and increase efficiency and profits. Under KMDP, more than 100,000 farmers were trained in a combination of FaaB, association management, strategic planning and leadership development. In 2008, KMDP revised its training to include posters and pictograms, such as the “Mali Ngumu” poster series that featured key lessons from KMDP’s Maize Handbook. ACDI/VOCA also recognized the importance of gender mainstreaming in KMDP; therefore, we adapted our training materials to include “Farming as a Family Business” (FaaFB) to better integrate women in the maize value chain and worked with 134,724 female farmers from 2002–2010.
This dramatic growth in smallholder productivity is brought about by improving farmer business management, tailoring input distribution specifically for smallholders (new types and smaller packages), and bulk purchases and marketing through the groups. Smallholder farmers are learning to adhere to international quality and linking directly with private sector business development services. Through KMDP, ACDI/VOCA helps stimulate increased demand for business services by providing linkages and awareness of the services and products available, while addressing constraints on the delivery of these services. For example, KMDP facilitated private sector-focused maize industry business fairs to bring together over thousands offarmers and many business service providers to create effective business linkages.
A major problem for smallholder farmers is the lack of access to timely and accurate market information. To address this problem, KMDP established a network of market information centers that serve as locations for prices and trade information within local and regional markets. Through these centers, buyers are able to post purchase bids while farmers can review offers and sell their stocks to buyers. KMDP also strives to provide farmers and agribusinesses with access to new and improved technologies. Kenyan farmers have been able to take advantage of the widespread use of mobile phones to acquire quick and accurate information through the short messaging system (SMS). This system allows users to receive as text messages the prevailing market prices for various products within several markets. The system also enables farmers to receive weather alerts and regular extension messages on production practices. By using SMS, farmers can avoid exploitation by middlemen, who have historically taken advantage of uninformed farmers by offering lower-than-market prices.
As a result of KMDP’s training, farmer groups now offer improved services to their members, such as commodity bulking, and improved quality grain to traders at better prices. Farmer groups also communicate with larger traders for access to market information to maintain relationships with reliable farmer groups that produce significant volumes of commodity. KMDP farmer organizations attracted the notice of larger buyers such as WFP’s P4P in 2009; therefore, WFP purchased 1,600 MT of maize from farmers affiliated with CGA.
In 2003, the project supported 18 associations, which grew in 2008 to 80 associations with a total membership of approximately 250,000 farmers. KMDP directly trains an average of 12,000 farmers each quarter in business practices primarily through ACDI/VOCA training in business skills for association leaders and their members, including the Farming as a Business module, which teaches producers to adopt a commercial approach to their farming activities. The KMDP team has further developed their training curricula to include a business startup training program targeting entrepreneurs in the agricultural and business sector. In 2007 KMDP, in collaboration with the private sector, research community, universities and government organizations, published the Kenya Maize Handbook, a summary of the maize production process and industry trends. A second edition will be launched in August 2009 at the business fair. This handbook has become a reference guide to smallholder farmers providing them with up-to-date information on maize production, crop protection, post-harvest handling and storage, marketing, government policies and regulations, weather and future trends. ACDI/VOCA also uses this forum to address critical cross-cutting issues such as natural resource management, gender equity and HIV/AIDS.
From 2002–2010, KMDP’s interventions demonstrated that smallholder farmers add substantial value to the maize value chain as well as improved knowledge flow and transparency in the maize subsector. KMDP increased household incomes through improved production and marketing efficiency of targeted smallholder maize farmers by an increased profit of smallholders (Kshs. 26.25 in 2002 to Kshs. 1,213 per 90 kg bag in the 2009 season), achieved an estimated incremental household income of $208 million, and increased household incomes by $533 or $1.46 per day.
In 2010, ACDI/VOCA submitted a $3,000,000 KMDP follow-on program for 18 months and successfully received approval from USAID.