By Titus Murithi
Once they have planted their potatoes, members of Kirimara Potato Growers Group are never unduly worried because a ready market awaits their farm produce the moment they’ve harvested.
Planting and spraying is also a walk in the park to them because certified seeds are readily available while chemicals for spraying the potatoes are given to them on time and there is always an officer to instruct them on all the processes required to grow potatoes the best way possible.
After harvesting and packing their potatoes in 50kg bags, they only make a call and the buyer arrives within the next 24 hours to buy all the produce at a pre-agreed price way before the potatoes were planted.
All this has been made possible to the potato growers as a result of contract farming introduced to them by Smart Champions Sacco Society, in partnership with other organizations to ensure farmers reap the full benefit of their sweat.
These partners include International Fertilizer Development Centre (IFDC), National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK), Sereni Fries and Syngenta Kenya. Their aim is to help farmers through every potato growing process up to a ready market.
Martin Mugambi, Smart Champions Sacco Society Deputy CEO says that every partner plays different roles which are crucial to successful potato farming by the 117 Kirimara Group members who are divided into five sub-groups.
“International Fertilizer Development Centre ensures our farmers access financial assistance and use the best fertilizer to grow their crops. It also trains them on best farming ways and identifies ready markets,” he explains.
Syngenta provides the best chemicals to our farmers for spraying their crops. Sereni Fries is the ready markets who buys all the potatoes after they are harvested. National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK) is the mediator between the seller and the buyer making both parties satisfied and our Sacco provides cash in form of loans to the farmers. We pay for all the services by our partners and later farmers pay the loans after their crops are sold,” says Mugambi.
After buying the potatoes, Sereni Fries pay the farmers through the Sacco where they have accounts. The Sacco also trains the farmers on savings after they are paid, farm records keeping and documentation.
Mugambi further says at first, they were approached by IFDC with a proposal to partner so that they could help farmers carry out better farming and they agreed and the other partners came on board which has seen farmers benefit in a very big way.
Mugambi observes that if community members from other parts of Meru County form farming groups, they can approach the Sacco for assistance for effective and profitable farming.
“We are open to all people who might require our services wherever they are. If they form farming groups they can come to us and we will assist them just the way we’ve helped Kirimara potato growers. Let farming groups come to us and they will see a Sacco with a difference which is out to help them in all their farming activities,” Mugambi adds.
Smart Champions Sacco Society has diverse members totaling over 7,100, who all access their financial services from the Sacco’s various branches in Meru County.
The Sacco’s headquarters is in Githongo Market in Central Imenti Sub-County, with branches in Ngushichi in Buuri Sub-County, Makandune and Kithaku, all in Central Imenti.