The sky is clear as farmers on motorbikes stream into Usonga Cereal Grain store in Siaya County to deliver sorghum packed in gunny bags.
It is the bulking day for members of Ndagaywa Farmers Group, whose produce will later be transported to the Kenya Cereals and Produce Board (KCPB) stores in Kisumu, some 150km away.
As they bring in the sorghum, they assist each other in re-packaging it into 50kg bags before it is weighed, records taken and the sacks loaded into a waiting lorry.
This is the second season that small-scale farmers are bulking sorghum here, after they were linked to a guaranteed market under the USAID’s Kenya Agricultural Value Chain Enterprises Project (Kaves).
“Farmers delivered about five tons of sorghum last season. But this will triple this time around,” said Jackson Akoth, the group’s coordinator.
Currently, the Ndagaywa group has 200 members.
However, according to Akoth, this number is expected to increase dramatically as word about the benefits of membership and of sorghum farming spreads fast.
Alice Makhulo, a mother of four, on this day delivered 500kg of sorghum.
“I have come to like sorghum farming because the crop matures fast,” said Alice.
“Besides, I am paid shortly after delivering the produce through my mobile phone,” she added.
James Sumba now sells a kilogramme of sorghum for double the price he used to before the intervention by Kaves.
“I used to sell a 2kg bag for Sh28, the same amount I am currently earning from a kilo,” he said.
Besides, farmers are paid within 48 hours after delivering their produce, making the venture to help improve their lives.
Through Kaves, farmers in the region were linked to Transu, a private company which buys sorghum in bulk.
Transu partners with a financial institution which offers soft loans to farmers and insurance companies which cover the crop, thus minimising risks.
“Transu specialises in seeking markets and aggregating produce from contracted farmers,” said the company’s CEO Philip Kajwang’.
He added, “Individually, most small-scale farmers cannot access services such as loans and insurance, but there is strength in unity.”
The company, he said, identified farmers through Community Action for Rural Development (Card), a non-governmental organisation which partnered with Kaves in picking out and training smallholders. Card also helped in establishing farmers’ groups.
The farmers were trained on good agricultural practices, and the benefits of working as groups.
Philip is currently working with 10,000 farmers from across the Nyanza region.
However, this number is set to increase as more become aware of the benefits of crop diversification, contract farming and working in small groups.
Kaves identified a challenge in the linkage of smallholder farmers to the market, and connected them to aggregators who had contacts with buyers.
“It is very hard for large-scale purchasers to collect produce from every smallholder farmer,” noted George Odingo, Kaves technical director for staples.
In a bid to bridge the gap, Kaves has been working with small and medium size enterprises, which aggregate produce such as sorghum and market it on behalf of smallholder producers.