Can Kenyan grain farmers learn from dairy hubs?
Business hubs are not new in Kenya. In fact, since the early 2000s, business hubs have been a tool to help dairy farmers build capacity, gain better access to markets and improve yields. Could lessons learnt from dairy business hubs be applied to grain business hub (GBH) models? The SNV Kenya team is confident they can be.
SNV Kenya is exploring how to utilise lessons learnt from Siongiroi Dairy Hub to help the Narok Association of Farmers (NAF) understand how productive business hubs function. Currently, NAF represents 15 farmer based organizations (FBOs) with a total of 700 members, all growing and trading in maize and beans. The association is an attractive and expanding entity for grain farmers in Narok county and 3 more FBOS have applied to join. SNV has been instrumental in forming NAF and continues to support them to build a sustainable business to benefit the member farmers.
In mid-March 2014, the Kenya team facilitated an exposure tour for 13 officials from NAF and their marketing officer. They visited Siongiroi Dairy Hub (Siongiroi is in Bomet county and is approximately 100km from Narok) where they had the opportunity to see how the business conduct of the hub could be applied to the maize and beans grain business hub. The visitors learned how the dairy hub has helped member farmers access credit and other supportive services.
Supportive services are important because farmers deliver milk every day, but are only paid once a month. Therefore, coming together as a hub permits farmers to access goods and services that they require as they wait for their payment. The hub also acts as a 'one stop shop', providing farmers with quality supplies at affordable rates, which saves time and allows them to concentrate on farming and improving their product yields.
Taking into account the differences between the production chains of milk and grains, effective approaches learnt from the dairy hub will help NAF as they develop their own GBH business plan this year. In addition, the group has made some valuable contacts from the Siongiroi visit, which they will certainly tap as they address challenges encountered in the process of establishing a GBH.