The Star (Nairobi)

10 June 2014

Kenya: Nambale Residents Farm Their Way to Success

Member of the Etekwa self help group inspecting one of the beehives in his farm under the Income generating activity- IGA programmme.The group benefited from the ILO/IPEC- SNAP project funded by USDOL to fight child labour.

Members of the Etekwa self help group display banana bunch in one of their farm.

Banana plantation in one of the farms in Walatsi location. The farm is part the Income generating Activity programme initiated by ILO/IPEC-SNAP project.

A self help group in Western Kenya is reaping huge benefits after shifting from subsistence to commercial farming.

Etekwa Self Help Group, which was founded four years ago as a merry-go-round, has gained prominence owing to their commitment to farming activities. Their efforts have now transformed the lives of local residents.

The 25-member group from Walatsi location in Nambale constituency is engaging in banana farming, which has enabled them earn a lot of cash from the crop as well as sale of banana seedlings to non-members, hence making the location the hub of banana production in Busia county.

The group's chairman, Francis Mukadi, says initially the local community had been planting bananas on a small scale for home consumption due to lack of funds with little or none at all left for sale.

"Since the group started the commercial farming project, majority of the local communities have been inspired and are currently engaging on large scale cultivation of the crop," Mukadi said. "Many families in the location had a negative attitude towards banana farming but currently, at least almost every household has set aside a portion of their farm for bananas -- this has proved to be a good cash earner," he says.

The group got financial support from the International Labour Organisation and International Programme on Elimination of Child labour (ILO/IPEC) project which aims to eradicate rampant child labour.

Mukadi says both members and non-members have been encouraged to set aside a portion of their land for agribusiness and an extra one for kitchen gardening.

He says the activities undertaken have helped resolve rising cases of malnutrition that had in the past been posed a serious threat to the lives of many family members especially children, adding that they are now in a position to provide for their daily bread considering that a bunch of banana is selling between Sh1, 000 and Sh1,200.

He said one of the challenges they face is a ready market for their produce, noting that many middlemen have taken advantage of their situation. He said the middlemen pay peanuts to farmers while they earn more money out of their (farmers) sweat.

"Apart from banana farming, members of Etekwa Self Help Group also engage in bee-keeping that has empowered them to earn more income from the project, with each group member owning at least three beehives," Mukadi says, adding that there is ready market for honey because the demand is high.

"With honey the demand is high and we give priority to our local supermarkets in Busia. We sell our honey at Sh800 per litre and we can harvest at least two to three litres per beehive. The group has a total of 52 beehives," said Mukadi.

Lack of honey processing machine is however a challenge. This has seen them incur huge losses as they are forced to process their honey manually hence leading to wastage.

The self help group has also launched a chicken rearing project where members sell their produce to the local hotels.

"The poultry project is undertaken by almost every household in the location with some of them keeping more than a hundred local chicken that they sell to hotels and individuals,"Mukadi said .

The group members also undertakes kitchen gardening where they grow local vegetables for home consumption with some of them cultivating drought-resistant sweet potato species thus ensuring food security.

Sarah Anyango, one of the beneficiaries, says the project has transformed her family, adding that she is now able to pay fees for her children through the proceeds from bananas and poultry farming.

"Although I am not a member of the group, we were sensitised and I later embraced the project. This year, I have been able to pay tuition fees for my children and also provide food for my family," she said.

Mary Makokha, the director of Rural Education and Economic Programme (REEP), a local organisation and one of the implementing agencies of the programme, has lauded the group for its exemplary performance of transforming the lives of the community.

Makokha noted that rampant child labour has reduced significantly since many children are in school with their parents now able to pay school fees for their children. She adds that poverty had been one of the major causes of child labour.

"It was poverty that made parents to send their children to work for cash to make ends meet and now that the community has enough food, cases of child labour are rarely recorded and I applaud the group for the work they did," says Makokha.

Nambale legislator John Bunyasi also lauded the initiative, saying at the end of the day, such programmes improve the living standards of the people.

"This is a noble project that deserves support from like-minded groups and I encourage other groups and individuals to borrow a leaf from Etekwa Self Help Group. Other players are also invited to come and invest in human capital and also help source for market for the crops produced," said Bunyasi.

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