In the next few weeks, a small and dusty village in Taveta Taveta will receive a windfall of over Sh10 million, thanks to their contractual farming for the supply of groundnuts to Upfield Company- the makers of Blue Band.
What started as a small group in 2018, Tanafaka Cooperative Society has grown in leaps and bounds to the extent that they have now entered into a partnership with world’s largest maker of spreads for supply of 100 tonnes of groundnuts.
The society, which has slightly over 1,000 active members will be making its first delivery to the firm next month, which will mark the maiden crop to supply to the processor since the signing of the contract.
“We signed a contract with Upfield for the supply of 100 tonnes of groundnuts every month. This is a big move to our sacco and the community at large that will benefit from the returns that we shall get from the sale of produce,” said Peter Munyi, the chairman of the Tanafaka Sacco.
Upfield is the largest plant-based foods company in the world and the number one producer of plant-based spreads globally including iconic brands like Flora, Country Crock, Rama and Becel.
The sacco has signed the contract on behalf of farmers and after harvesting, they sell it to the company, which pays Sh100 for a kilo of the produce, the highest price to have been achieved.
Upfield has also identified Syngenta as the preferred agro-chemical company for farmers, which helps in resolve problems, curing the crop through training from plant to harvest.
The agro-chemical giant is also helping the co-operative society to source herbicides and pesticides at affordable prices, negotiated prices for farmers as a group to help in cutting down of overheads and maximising growers profit.
Ms Agnes Waithera, a young farmer in Taveta and the secretary at the Tanafaka Cooperative has planted six acres of groundnut having been contracted by Upfield.
She says the ready market for the crop and low expenses involved in the farming of this produce makes it the best form of investment for farmers in the region.
“With groundnuts, once you have planted you do not need a lot of time looking after it, it is not labour intensive and you get your returns within a very short time,” said Ms Waithera.
Davies Mwangoma, CEC for Agriculture in Taita Taveta County said groundnuts is one of the important crops in the county’s economy, which has helped to lift farmers’ out of poverty.
Mr Mwangoma said at least 145 acres in the county have so far been put under the cover of groundnut.
“We have been encouraging farmers to grow groundnuts because of the impressive margins and the ready market for the crop,” said Mr Mwangoma, adding that the country is also promoting other drought-tolerant crops like sorghum, pigeon pea and green gramme.
Over the years, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid (ICRISAT) and partners, through the Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD), has released new improved varieties of sorghum, millets, pigeon pea, and groundnuts that have the potential to increase productivity and nutrition.
AVCD is working to promote these crops which are drought-tolerant and provide assured harvest even when the rainy season is too short for other crops to reach maturity.
The programme mainly focuses on regions that do not receive enough rain and it is currently running in Elgeyo Marakwet and Taita Taveta counties, which are classified as semi-arid areas.
Farmers in the county have benefitted from the Feed the Future Programme, which is backed by USAID and aims at expanding economic opportunities for smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs, strengthening household, community and market resilience to shocks and diversifying agricultural production.
Farmers here are growing a new groundnut variety imported from Zambia, which are high yielding, with growers harvesting up to 3,000 kilos per hectare, up four times from the 700 tonnes farmers get from the traditional recycled seed.
This is not the first partnership that Upfield has established in the country to benefit small scale farmers.
The company is currently in partnership with Agventure Limited- a Nanyuki based firm, to source Canola oil from smallholder farmers that is used in the manufacturing of Blue Band Margarine and the recently launched Blue Band Cold Pressed Canola oil.
The partnership currently impacts 3,500 farmers and is projected to reach 7,500 farmers by the end of 2020.