Youth Link Farmers To Markets In The Cereal Value Chain

Agrisolve and Henrok 6 Youth Groups:

  • These two youth groups, both involved in processing and selling cereal products, were struggling to source and process raw materials, but after acquiring new skills by attending entrepreneurial training and trade shows organised by Vijabiz, the groups have begun to focus on value addition of cereals to make flour and livestock feeds that are in constant demand in the market.
  • As a result, the groups have been able to produce a range of products such as Uji Star, Ugali Star, maize germ, wheat bran and dairy meal. Through contract farming and improved marketing, they are creating a trusting and rewarding relationship with both farmers and customers.

Youth groups meet Vijabiz

Agrisolve Youth Group is based in Kibarani ward in Kilifi county. It was formed in 2017 with the aim of making animal feeds such as maize germ, wheat bran and dairy meal. It has 12 members, with seven women and five men.

Henrok 6 Youth Group Trading, also known as ‘Henrok 6 Limited’, is based in Menengai ward in Nakuru county, and started in 2016. Henrok  6 processes maize, millet, sorghum and cassava to make ‘Ugali Star’ (shifted maize flour), ‘Uji Star’ (porridge flour) and animal feeds from the by-products.

Henrok  6 has 14 members: four women and ten men. In March 2018, the two groups (found more than 200 km from each other) were invited to work with Vijabiz.

Before the transformation of their businesses, both groups grappled with challenges of penetrating the market, improper record keeping and a lack of ICT skills.

Their experience with Vijabiz… In their own words…

“Through ICT and entrepreneurship training, mentorship sessions and trade shows, the Vijabiz project enabled group members to brand and package their products in units that are convenient and affordable, even to low income households. For example, we started selling porridge flour packaged in 500 g units for KSh 30 (€0.27), and 1 kg of maize germ for KSh 40 (€0.36).

to many customers, the larger portions that are usually sold are not as appealing as the smaller packages. Still, the high cost of equipment such as a mixer and grinding machine is hindering us from producing a greater variety of products,”

Improved practices…

We ( Agrisolve and Henrok 6) both used to source raw materials – maize, millet and sorghum – from middlemen, and did not have a clear way of keeping records. After joining the Vijabiz project we started getting our raw materials directly from farmers through contract farming, this eliminated the need for middlemen and cut costs of production,

  • The youth groups now provide the seeds, fertilisers and pesticides, and guarantee the farmers stable prices for their produce, while the farmers commit to supplying the cereals. Henrok 6, for example, is working with 36 maize farmers in Nakuru county.
  • The groups are now able to carry out their activities in a systematic manner, right from milling, branding and packaging, to advertisement and selling.
  • They have also developed a proper record keeping strategy and carry out a product review twice a year. With the product review, they are able to go to our clients’ farms and ask questions on the performance of their animal feed. The clients also give them feedback on what to improve.They use these comments, constantly striving to offer the best possible products and services.
  • Market linkages in the cereal  value chain are improving the way in which they link farmers to markets and has increased sales by 10% for Agrisolve Youth Group and 14% for Henrok 6 Youth Group Trading.

“This increase is a direct result not only of the contract farming, but also of the marketing skills we learnt from USTADI Foundation trainings through the Vijabiz project. We learnt how to create a Facebook page, we created a brand name and learnt  how to pitch our products. The ICT skills learnt in a training course with ICT for Development Kenya have enabled us to incorporate the use of social media in our business,

the ‘Agrisolve Youth Group’ Facebook page and the ‘Henrok 6 Limited’ Facebook page have strengthened our competitive advantage, since our products are of a good quality and we can demonstrate this.

Though the high cost of internet access and ICT gadgets is a challenge, we got better at explaining our business to the public, winning customers and improving our network during trade shows and with peer-to-peer visits,

for example, Henrok 6 was able to win a contract from the national Ministry of Interior and Coordination to supply food provisions. Agricultural trade shows organised by local governments have also opened up new networking platforms for us,

we have acquired negotiation skills that help us to convince potential customers as we network in the trade shows to enter into an agreement with us,

we have also worked hard to decrease post-harvest losses by ensuring fast delivery  of raw materials and establishing an ‘order to buy’ system – where we produce goods to order. Yet poor infrastructure, such as road networks to transport agricultural produce, has also been a challenge,”

Gaining financial freedom

“We see ourselves and other youths on the road to financial freedom because we are involved in agribusiness in the cereal value chain. Vijabiz, in collaboration with county governments, exposed us to these agribusiness opportunities,

we recognise that there are still other youth that see a white-collar job as superior to agribusiness. This narrative, we think, is the most limiting factor for them to gain financial freedom. We offer them an example of how agribusiness can be an excellent way to make a profit and make a difference in our communities,

we have witnessed an increase in the number of bank accounts opened by our group members and other youths, because of the financial management skills learnt in our mentorship sessions with Demand Link Business Solutions. This organisation was contacted by the USTADI Foundation and CTA to train and mentor youth groups on entrepreneurial skills, and also to monitor our progress,

the main hindrance in increasing the financial resources of our members is that banks and other financial institutions, like SACCO (Savings and Credit Cooperative Society), have high interest rates and withdrawal charges, which make youth shun them,

the restricted number of youths that the Vijabiz project was able to train in our group limited how many youths could benefit. Even though the trained members trained their peers independently, this transfer of knowledge was limited by a lack of computers to demonstrate the ICT and business management skills in practice. Still, at Henrok 6, we have been able to employ ten other youths, who are not group members, to help us run our businesses since we have expanded our operations,

for Agrisolve Youth Group, all workers are currently group members. However, a lack of capacity to scale up and bureaucracy of financial institutions to access credit has hindered us from employing more youths,

more capital to invest in feed machines and buy raw materials in bulk would allow us to scale up.

And this is their conclusion about Vijabiz project:

“Before the implementation of this project it was difficult for us to access markets, our record keeping was poor, and we did not know how to use ICT in our enterprises. Agrisolve Youth Group and Henrok 6 Youth Group Trading were able to create new market linkages thanks to the support of the USTADI Foundation and CTA through the Vijabiz project. Training, trade shows and opportunities for networking with county government stakeholders have supported us in our growth. We would welcome the opportunity to better our skills and grow even further, seeing opportunities for this by attending more training, and by visiting and learning from other companies and organisations that are doing similar activities. We appreciate that this is a great milestone we have taken with the Vijabiz project and we recommend that more youth be given such an opportunity,”