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A Commercial Village Brings Business to Poor Kenyan Farmers 0

High incidents of poverty coupled with decreasing land acreage amid a changing climate pouring havoc on weather patterns has compelled farmers in the Tangakona area of Busia County in western Kenya to embrace an innovative initiative to improve livelihoods.

The farmers cultivate cassava and orange fleshed sweet potatoes (OFSP,) both of which are drought resistant, under an initiative that involves value addition to the two tuber crops and is dubbed a “Commercial Village. “

The initiative is generating income and ensuring food security not only at Tangakona but for the entire Busia County. The farmers grow the crops in groups or individually but process and sell the products collectively.

Initially the farmers, who are mostly peasants, grew cassava and sweet potatoes mainly for domestic consumption.

This has since given way to commercial cultivation of the two. They have also established a cooperative society under which they save their money and have access to loans.

A key aspect of the commercial village is the value addition to the two crops. From the cassava and OFSP they make products such as cakes, crisps, fries, scones and flour for making chapattis (flat pancakes) and mandazi’s (Swahili buns) among other products. The products attract many buyers and fetch better prices.

According to Catherine Amusugut, who is in charge of value addition, the Commercial Village concept which began in 2011 has roots in a self help farmers group established in 1999. The concept was introduced by Farm Concern International, an Africa-wide market development Agency which promotes marketing models appropriate for smallholder farmers.

A commercial village is an umbrella of registered self-help farmers groups that partner in the production of crops, processing and marketing. Amusugut said that the village was started with 11 groups and 196 members but has since grown to incorporate individual members. Currently it serves over 10,000 people all growing cassava and OFSP.

“By coming together we have been able to increase production, enhance the quantity of our products and sustain the market needs,” said Amusugut. The two tuber crops have improved food security and income levels of the local communities.

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by Justus Wanzala

Photo Credits IPS News/Justus Wanzala

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