Seed Revolving Fund: Women Uplifting Their Community in Kenya
In the last planting season of September 2019, the Gender specialist at the Alliance of Bioversity and International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (ABC) approached an extension officer at Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) to identify a women group with whom to collaborate with to promote high iron and zinc beans in Nakuru, Kenya. This was after the gender expert realized that more men, compared to women participated in field days where different and improved bean varieties of high iron and zinc beans were promoted. After a discussion with the Ushirikiano women's group, thirty-six women showed interest to grow Nyota – a high iron and zinc bean variety. Nyota is among four new varieties (Angaza, Faida, Nyota, and Metameta) recently released by KALRO through support from Pan Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA). These women could only afford 2kg of certified bean seed each; so they purchased 72kg of the Nyota seed from KALRO.
To cushion the farmers from any further risks, and promote the planting of these new varieties, PABRA and KALRO boosted them with an additional 340 kg of certified seeds to accommodate the acres reserved for beans in that season. The goal was to test the seed-production-own-consumption pathway, which would result in women's empowerment and increase nutritional outcomes around their community. The women had average yields of 271 kg per acre, which was not very good compared to individual farmers who got 60kg from 1kg of seed. The season's harvest was not very good due to climatic shocks like heavy rains, and limited agronomic training.
Discussions between KALRO, the women farmers and Smart Logistics Limited yielded good results. Smart Logistics Ltd produces precooked beans, bean snacks, bean-based flour and bean-based noodles. After the harvest, 25 percent of women sold off their grains to the bean processing company. Smart Logistics bought the bean at a premium price of US$ 60 (Ksh. 6000) for 90kg compared to the market rate of US$ 50 (Ksh. 5000) for a 90kg bag. Their households consumed some of the harvests while the rest of the harvest sold to friends and neighbors. The proportion of consumption and sale vary per farmer. Below is an example of how Lucy Wairimu and Leah Wambui partitioned their beans for sale and home consumption.
Seed refunds this year
This year, the season looks great! The agreement between KALRO, ABC-PABRA and the thirty-six women farmers who received 340kg of certified beans last year was to reserve 2kg each which had to be redistributed to other members from this group and even external to the group who wanted to grow this bean variety. We also aimed to reach older women from the Ushirikiano women's group and the Takamema mixed group. "It is impressive to see that this season we have 131.5kg of Nyota bean seeds that were saved by the women group; with some women farmers graciously, setting aside more than 2 kg of seed," said Mrs. Mwachugha (KALRO extension officer). So far, we have been able to reach 46 new farmers with 131.5 kg of Nyota seed. Photos shared from the field show very impressive bean compared to the crop last year.
One of the women in the group, Leah Wambui, planted 5kg of seed last season and harvested 180kg. She sold 90kg to the bean processor (Smart Logistics Ltd) at US$ 60. The money she got from the sales, was used US$ 30 to get a title deed for her land and another US$ 30 for her son's school fees. She also sold 10kg to her neighbour and gave back 2kilos to support other women farmers in the women group. "These beans are fast cooking and tasty, I am keeping 60 kilos to feed the family, and I am planting 8kilos of seed this season," she says.
Lucy Wairimu, another member of the group, planted 10kg last season, harvested 360kg, and sold 270kg to Smart Logistics at US$ 60 for a 90kg bag. She additionally sold 38kg to her neighbours and gave out 10kg to her friends. She gave back the 2kg as agreed to share with other women farmers and planted 12kg this season on her farm. "I like the beans because they take a short time to mature and they are high yielding. I have more beans than I had planted. I want my family to enjoy, and I have saved 28kg for home consumption."
The beans reserved for consumption will go a long way in the household nutrition and the surpluses sold will bring in more money to family to be used to address other urgent needs in the family such as paying school fees, medical care etc.