Frequent drought occasioned by climate change is having a negative impact on agricultural production, making agriculture more difficult. Indeed, poverty, hunger and malnutrition are already being felt by a majority of households.
Poor rural communities seem particularly vulnerable and thus require support and introduction of adaptive farming technologies in order to successfully adapt and change their living conditions.
Commercialization of legumes sub-sector offers a promisong opportunity to create wealth in Kenya’s rural agricultural sector. Legumes such as pigeon peas,green grams and soybeans are particularly important to this end, with soybean being the most dual purpose and commercially attractive.
Despite the huge potential of soybean and other legumes in the domestic and export markets.Kenya remains a net importer. This is because smallholder farmers are not motivated to raise production levels since they do not get a just reward for their effort due to ineconomies of scale and exploitation by middle men. Households havent also been given sufficient knowledge on soybean value addition and nutrition too.
Escope strategic solutions Ltd operating in Migori ,Homabay,Kisumu,Siaya and Transnzoia county has embarked on facilitating production and marketing of soybean through recruiting, contracting and linking smallholder farmers to industrial buyers. Escope is also engaged in trainings of household on soybean value addition and nutrition. By doing this, Escope intends to enable smallholder farmers own a bigger part of the industrial supply chain hitherto dominated by importers and large scale farmers while at the same time improve their health and soil fertility levels through promotion of use of soybean both as food and legume. With support and previous experience from working with various companies and organizations like Promasidor(K) Ltd and Tropical soil biology and fertility institute(CIAT) among others,we have been able to bring farmers together into working groups for purposes of engaging in soybean production and marketing. This is aimed at increaing smallholder farmers income through private sector involvement and high value added marketing initiative. Escope strategic solution Ltd has it’s head office at Oyani Christian Centre in Stella Market along Kisii-Sirare highway.
Escope seeks to build a competitive and sustainable soybean sector in the region.We are working on achieving this by raising income levels of soybean smallholder farmers by providing them a means through which bulking,storage, access to financial services/insurance,production and marketing of their produce can be carried out,thus enhancing their financial abilities and bargaining power whilst at the same time easening supply and storage headeache for industrial buyer by giving them assurance on timely quantity andquality supply of raw materials they require. Besides all the above,increased use of soybean by the households gives an appropriate avenue for improved health for most households.
Production of soybean in the targeted regions is expected to increase progressively to 3000 Metric tonnes within the next 2 years due to better market linkages,better land utilization, better pricing, timely application of agricultural inputs and assurance of market.
It is projected that the business will serve an estimated population of more than 60,000 households within the targeted counties. The market is expected to grow at a very high rate, partly because of the increasing demand for livestock meals,soy oil and non-animal proteins.
Current smallholder production and marketing scenario
The legumes market and especially that of the soybean is highly fragmented. The industry is dominated at the farm level by small holder farmers. Brokers and middle men on the other hand dominate the distribution channel.
Many existing industrial buyers/ companies therefore tend to concentrate on the tail end of the marketing channel (going for whatever the smallholders have and are willing to dispose). This trend has overtime proved to be very unreliable since most smallholders are never obliged to produce whatever the buyers require and often, whatever the farmers produce do not meet the quality and quantity standards of the buyers.A situation that has exhuberated malfuctioning of agricultural production and marketing, promoting speculation by most buyer and preference for importation of most soybean and other related industrial products.
As a result of inconsistency and malfactioning of smallholder agricultural production and marketing sector, there has been a steady decline in smallholder production mainly because of poor prices they receive from multiple buying layers and ever increasing cost of production hence existence of the current huge deficit in production of soybean and other cereals in the country.
Currently, upto three quarters( ¾ ) of soybean and other cereals consumed in the country are imported either from neighbouring countries(Uganda,Tanzania,Rwanda and DRC),or Southern Africa countries(Malawi,Zimbabwe and Zambia) and South America(Brazil).Thereby contributing to repatriation of approximately 5 billion Kenya shilllings per annum.Kenya’s current consumption of soybean stands at 500,000MT with a bigger propotion consumed by livestock and oil industries.
The current scenario is what motivated the conceptualization of Escope strategic solutions Ltd with clear intentions of linking the input and output sectors together with incorporation of other sectors like finance,insurance and information technology. All this aimed at transforming smallholder farmers into competitive partakers in Kenya’s agricultural production and marketing sector.
We run an innovative social business venture specialising in provision of agricultural raw material directly supplied from contracted smallholder farmers to industrial buyers which is blended with family nutrition and soil conservation.This is a shift from the current situation where 75% of industrial agricultural raw material is procured from large commercial farmers or imported into the country. We attain this by supporting both on-farm and off- farm smallholder activities which entail; developing capacity of small holders to increase production by training them on best agronomic practices and nutrition,providing loans inform of inputs, linking smallholder farmers to financial and or insurance institutions,offering contracts to smallholder farmers and providing logistical post harvest support among other services.
Our vision is to build a sustainable and reputable agribased-raw material supply brand in the region (East Africa), by employing a robust supply chain model that interfaces smallholder farmers with industrial buyers whilst leveraging on each others’ competences on a commercial platform.
Our working model
We employ a tested demand driven structured marketing model, a unique system that ideally defines what to produce, how to produce, and target markets.
Our scope of service in both production and structured marketing entail:
i). Defining our areas of operation.
ii). Recruiting smallholder farmers(producers) into viable economic production units that can sustain production.
iii). Linking smallholder production units to financial institution and insurance.
iv). Offering contracts to recruited farmers,
v). Offering post harvest logistics services.
vi) Training recruited farmers on quality standards requirements by target markets and use of soybean at the household level.
vii) Utilizing appropriate technologies.e.g. use of ICT,threshers,moisture metre among others.
The whole working model is divided into two pillars.
Once we have fully established a model( starts with a production unit and ends with a production group-arranged in a bottom –up model).The created smallholder production units then act as marketing units that can strategically meet the market demand, on quality, quantity and lead times.
Farmers within the production unit are offered contracts,trained on both agronomy and marketing,facilitated with input loans and linked to both finacial and insurance institutions. Each production unit is also helped to establish a collection point where all farmers are expected to collect their produce within given periods. All through, from the date of planting to harvesting farmers are either reminded or kept updated on progress throush use of bulk smses. This is in addition to regular visits done by our extension officers and day –to-day monitoring done by group contact persons.
Upon delivering their produce at the collection centre,each farmer’s consignment is weighed and the farmer issued with a customised warehouse receipt having all the relevant details of the farmer including contacts and account numbers among others. A payment schedule is then prepared and payment instructions given to the bank to debit each farmer’s account within 14 days.
We have since mapped out existing large volume soybean market outlets for smallholder farmers in the county. Such market outlets include large scale textured protein manufactures, oil processing industries and livestock feed manufacturers among others. We have already developed training materials for smallholder marketing and established a working relationship with key industrial buyers including; Promasidor (K) Ltd, Instapro (EPZ), Soya Afrique, Equatorial nuts among others.
Key objective in our marketing plan is to sensitize and train smallholder farmers on ways of minimizing postharvest losses and attaining targets and quality standards set out by major buyers. i.e. Through use of modern post-harvest handling equipment such as tapulins, collapsible driers cases and moisture metres. We then establish collection centres which is usually located at a central place (depending on quantity projected for harvest).
These established production groups are eventually aligned and modelled into collective production plan and marketing of produce. Joint meetings, awareness campaigns and drafting of production contracts are always done before and during growing seasons so as to build trust among farmers and buyers.
We have been able to employ these strategy for the last 2 years in Migori and Homabay counties for production of soybeans meant for Promasidor Kenya Limited(Sossi soya).
Within the same period, we have been able to procure moisture meters, collapsible driers and computerized weighing machines. In a span of 2 years we managed to increase production of soybeans from megre 7 tonnes to 316 metric tonnes by end of 2014, earning farmers approximately 24 million kenya shillings.