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The impact of Ng’arua Maarifa and Sokopepe

The Ng’arua Maarifa Centre played host to a guest sent by Ford Foundation on August 5, 2014. The field visit enabled Josephine Mulaa, Associate Consultant, SEWA Business Services Ltd to learn more about activities carried out by Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) in Sipili Division, Laikipia County as well as evaluate the impact of the Maarifa Centre and Ford Foundation grant.

Josephine was accompanied by ALIN’s Director James Nguo, Deputy Director Anthony Mugo and David Makongo, a Business Development Advisor with Netherlands Development Organization (SNV). ALIN’s Project officer Esther Lung’ahi had preceded the team and was on hand to welcome the visitors.

The event also provided an opportunity for the various beneficiaries and partners of ALIN to interact with Josephine; they asked questions and appealed for more support to expand the noble projects carried out at Ng’arua Maarifa centre.

Ford Foundation is supporting ALIN in expanding livelihood opportunities for poor households. This initiative has been made possible through a grant from Ford Foundation intended for enhancing farmers capacity to Harness the Agriculture Value Chain and promoting citizens’ engagement through media using ICTs.

The project involves a combination of activities aimed at improving the agricultural value chain for farmers as a way of improving production, enhancing post-harvest care of their produce as well as its quality and working with micro-finance institutions to guarantee farmers timely payments for their commodities.

The visitors were taken through a brief history of the Maarifa centre as well as services provided. The services mentioned included; Library services, internet access, advisory services, online market information, SOKO+, Farm Record Management Information System (FARMIS), E-Government services, ICT Training, Citizen Journalism Training, Multimedia content, publications and knowledge sharing on Natural Resources Management (NRM) and Sustainable Land Management (SLM).

Josephine admiring some of the farm produce that were on display

They were also able to view exhibition stands set up by various farmers. Some of the crops exhibited included; honey, tree tomato, thorny melon, climbing beans, vegetable climbing beans, pumpkin, rosemary, lemon grass, amaranth and both yellow and purple passion.

The question and answer forum provided a platform for Ford Foundation, ALIN, SNV and the farmers to interact as well as share ideas.

Josephine particularly wanted to learn how Sokopepe has helped farmers. Most Farmers recounted their earlier experience before the introduction of SOKO+. They talked about exploitation by middlemen as they used to sell their produce at a low price.

Elcanah Muthee narrated how he used to sell a crate of tomatoes at Ksh 450 but after he was linked to a market by SOKO+ he is now selling his tomatoes at Ksh 6,800 per crate.

Similarly, Margaret Mwangi supported his assertion by narrating how she received an sms from Sokopepe about banana plants propagated through tissue culture which yield higher than traditionally propagated bananas. This she said made her to decide to plant the bananas.

Peter Mwaniki narrated how sokopepe enabled him sell his Lima beans at a higher price. He had done a market survey and found the price of Lima Beans ranging between Ksh 60-80 per kg in Sipili and Nyahururu. This he felt was low compared to the expenses incurred during farming. He then decided to visit Ng’arua Maarifa Centre where a sample of his Lima Beans was photographed and uploaded on the SOKO+ portal.

“I received a call the same evening from the Maarifa Centre informing me that a buyer had been found. I was able to sell the Lima beans at Ksh 150 per kg,” said Mwaniki.

Ol-Moran/Sipili Ward administrator Mr. Peter Keru urged Ford Foundation to continue supporting ALIN as community members have been benefiting through the various services provided by the Maarifa Centre. He said that ALIN has been helping farmers improve their livelihood.

“I have been working with groups for a long time and I am happy that I have heard how they are benefiting. The strategy of Ford Foundation is that partners must work together to expand livelihood opportunities for poor households,” said Josephine.

She was particularly happy with linkages between ALIN and its partners. She noted the importance of sharing information saying that knowledge will go a long way in empowering farmers.

“What ALIN has done is very positive and it is good to try and replicate this model. The activities and interventions done by ALIN to help farmers is noble,” said Josephine.

She urged Laikipia Produce and Marketing Cooperative Society to develop a strategic plan which will act as a guiding principle in its operations.

”We must transform our lives and homes. Listening to you is a positive investment and I am particularly glad to see many women here,” said Josephine.

By putting local communities at the driver’s seat of modern information and communication technologies, the project broadly empower them to facilitate the more inclusive involvement of all community members particularly women and youth in productive economic activities anchored on various levels of the agriculture value chain.

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By Bob Aston | Thursday, August 7th, 2014 | 3 Comments | Tags : Agriculture Farmis Soko+ Markets

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