By Andanje Wakhungu
The county government of Kakamega is set to roll out a project aimed at promoting avocado farming in the county funded by the World Bank. The project’s main aim is to encourage more farmers to join the venture that is slowly being introduced in the county on a large scale.
The rollout of the project has seen farmers drawn from Kakamega North Sub County launch a SACCO, Mumbo Avocado Farmers’ Cooperative Society (MAFCOS) to guide them on the best farming method. Speaking during their first annual general meeting, the (MAFCOS) chairman Maxwell Shamala said the cooperative was started for the purpose of promoting the planting of Hass avocado, seedlings nurturing, harvesting and marketing of the fruit.
The Sacco that will serve farmers within the sub-county and its environment was started after members met the Chief Executive Officer of Sisi Village Produce (SVP) Patrick Kisia who shared his expertise on how farmers from Mt. Kenya, Nyamira and Kisii regions were reaping huge benefits from similar projects. Counties in the former Western region missed out on this venture, yet they have favourable climatic conditions comparable to other areas in the country where avocado farming is thriving. He outlined the huge financial returns associated with the fruit.
“We realized that the export market was huge with China becoming the latest market where demand for the fruit is huge while local consumption was also on the rise as demand for avocado oil for culinary and the pharmaceutical industry is growing. The residues from the extraction of oil are an excellent organic fertilizer. Shamala said there was a need to intensify avocado farming for farmers to benefit.
“The Sisi Village Produce CEO Patrick Kisia stated that as a company they were targeting organized groups rather than individuals as far as avacado farming is concerned and that is how they thought of coming up with the cooperative society.” The chairman noted that the setting up of Sisi Village Produce in Malava to promote avocado farming in Kakamega, Bungoma, Vihiga, Busia and Siaya counties has reinforced and ignited the urge for locals to form cooperative societies to act as a link between the farmers and the company.
The society started off with 9 members on March 2023, they held a formal meeting with Shinyalu sub-county cooperative society Harriet Kweyu and her Malava sub-county counterpart Monica Aduke, they were addressed by Patrick Kisia on general avocado farming in Kenya. The driving force to form a SACCO came from one of the promoters Mr William Muchite a retired cooperative officer who is now the MAFCOS treasurer.
The cooperative officers also preside over the election of the interim executive committee members led by Maxwell Shamala (chairman), Solomon Sikolia (Vice Chairman), Isaac Libuyi (secretary) and Margaret Bulifa as treasurer after which they co-opted Dr. Dickens Malanga, Juma Matsanza, Daniel Tuvei, Bramwell Kimokoti and William Muchite as members of the management committee.
The committee was mandated to formulate by-laws for the society besides applying for the registration to the commissioner of cooperatives. He thanked both the county and sub-county cooperative officers for acknowledging their documents and ensuring that they met the criteria for registration. To be a member one needs to be 18 years of age and above and pay an entrance fee of Kshs.2, 000, be able to plant or own 10 seedlings on one parcel of land and purchase 60 shares of Kshs. 200 per share and agree to sell the avocado fruits through the cooperative society besides obeying the by-laws of the society.
Shamala pointed out that the main challenge has been registering members due to the negative attitude many residents of the county harbour against the idea of cooperatives as a result of the management of cooperatives earlier witnessed.
He also said lack of information on the handsome returns that can be realized from avocado farming was another challenge but added that for the past six months, they have been able to turn the tide and generate a lot of interest in fruit farming and confirmed that by next the onset of the long rains, they will register more members from the initial 55. Cane farming by farmers at various stages at their farms has been another challenge as the farmers have to wait until they can harvest the canes before preparing their farms for avocado farming.
“We will soon be signing a memorandum of understanding with Sisi village produce this month where they expect to sensitize more people to join through engaging national administrators, Mca’s churches, mosques and opinion leaders to promote the growing of hass avocado in their localities.
The MOU will guide our relationship from planting, nurturing, harvesting, and aggregating transportation to the company for sorting, grading and marketing, our members have already planted 2,500 seedlings with others preparing their farms to plant next season and we are happy to announce that the survival rate of the seedlings is 98%. We have also established a working rapport with the Agricultural Finance Corporation (AFC) Kakamega branch to advise our members on financial literacy and further engaged CIC on insurance matters of our assets.”
By the end of 2023, we anticipate to have recruited 100 members as the county government engages the World Bank in avocado farming. The project is expected to see the cooperative society membership rise tremendously seeing us register 1000 members by 2024.
The society has identified an office within Malava CBD that will be operational starting November 2023 and currently, it is planning on how to acquire avocado seedlings from accredited nurseries among other farm inputs for our members and earn some commission on the purchases and generate some income.
It is also planning to set up modern beehives for the members for the purposes of beekeeping to assist in the avocado tree pollination process. The cooperative has also hinted that in the future it will consider establishing its own nurseries to supply the seedlings to farmers.
Besides preparing its financial report from March to date, it has also prepared a budget for the year ending 31st December 2023 as the committee has formulated financial regulations and human resources guidelines and is preparing its strategic plan. The society which falls under the ministry of agriculture, livestock development, fisheries and cooperatives, is liaising with the department for support and possible grants.