By Collins Akong’o
Farmers in Kwale County no longer worry of market or unscrupulous middlemen thanks to Kwale Pamba and Viazi Cooperative Society (PAVI).
PAVI, which was formed in 2014, 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, Cooke 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 the market to the farmers hence the middle men and reduced the chances of farmers being exploited.
PAVI’s founding member and current chairman 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. I am happy that I able to earn over Sh 100,000 from sale of my produce,” he said. “I have built a permanent house and educated my children.”
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 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 cotton to Australia’s largest value fashion company, which directly purchases lint cotton from the farmers at competitive prices.
The partners however envisage an independent and self-sustaining cooperative by 2020 as outlined in PAVI’s five -year strategic plan.
“Our ultimate goal is to ensure that we create a sustainable community that will outlast the life of the mine,” said the company Community Affairs Manager Pius Kassim.