Sacco improves farming in Kwale county

Women picking cotton in Kwale County .Lamu farmers have breathed a sigh of relief after the cabinet approved the farming of BT cotton PHOTO COURTESY

Kwale,KENYA:Farmers in Kwale County can now cultivate their crops without worrying about market accessibility, availability of farm inputs or unscrupulous middle men, following the formation of the Kwale Pamba and Viazi Cooperative Society (“PAVI”) in 2014.

PAVI  which acts as a cooperative that has enabled local farmers to participate in agricultural livelihood programmes initiated by Base titanium company.

According to John Cooke the programme manager, its membership has grown from 202 farmers in 2015 to over 1,000.

Initially the aim was to bring together cotton farmers in Kwale to enable them to export collectively and benefit from economies of scale.

However PAVI’s mandate has since expanded to include other crops such as cow peas, green grams, maize, potato, sorghum and soya beans – mirroring the expansion of Base’s livelihood programme.

During a recent seed distribution drive in Kikoneni area within the county Mr John Cooke of Base’s programme partner Business for Development (“B4D”), said PAVI has positively impacted the livelihoods of the farmers and empowered them through education awareness and providing markets linkages.

He added that PAVI has created a direct link of market to the farmers hence it the middle men and reduced the chances of farmers being exploited.

PAVI’s founding member and current chairman Mr. Mahmud Masemo recounted the many benefits they have accrued adding that Kwale County is now well positioned to be a leading producer of cash-crops that will uplift the living standards of the residents.

“I am now a successful potato and cotton farmer who in the previous year earned over KES 100,000 from sale of my produce.

I have since used the money to build a permanent house and educate my children,”  he added.

Mr John Cooke said that this  year Base Titanium company  through its livelihoods programmes has distributed over 24 tonnes of seed which includes; cotton, cowpeas, green grams, maize, potato, sorghum and soy beans to over 1,000 farmers.

The Base and B4D partnership has also successfully sealed a deal with East African Breweries Limited which enables farmers to directly sell their sorghum to the beer manufacturer and another with Cotton On Australia’s largest value fashion company which directly purchases lint cotton from the farmers at competitive prices.

The partners however envisages an independent and self-sustaining cooperative by 2020 as outlined in PAVI’s 5-year strategic plan.

“Our ultimate goal is to ensure that we create a sustainable community that will outlast the life of the mine.” said Base Titanium Community Affairs Manager Mr. Pius Kassim.