‘Capacity building is about learning, educating, strengthening and maintaining capabilities. Its about changing mindsets and attitudes; setting and achieving objectives. Most importantly is the essential ingredient that comes at the end of the learning process-TRANSFORMATION!’
That is what happened to Creative Co-operative Society Youth group based in Molo. The group has demonstrated and proven why and how capacity building, mentorship sessions and learning journeys can lead to tangible results in terms of better and sustainable income.
The group engages in dairy farming, processing and marketing.Through Vijabiz, the group has found novel, relatively cheaper ways of increasing productivity and income from their dairy cows.
Since March 2019, the group’s income has increased from US$250 (€ €230) to over US$400 (€ €370) per month. Creative Investors has achieved a consistent income, largely driven by consistent production, a reliable market and an effective pricing strategy.
“Over the last decade, capacity building has become the silver bullet for enduring challenges in rural development. Unlike the tried and tested practice of throwing money at problems, enhancing the capacity of project beneficiaries has proven to be an excellent way of tackling existential challenges across diverse sectors – including the agricultural sector”-USTADI.
Molo is a highly productive agricultural region, located approximately 50 km from Nakuru. The group engages in dairy farming, processing of dairy products and marketing. Through Vijabiz, the group has found novel, relatively cheap ways of increasing productivity and income from their dairy cows. Through close mentorship and organised learning journeys to established dairy farms, the group has achieved considerable success, which would otherwise have gone unrealised.
Mentoring and learning Farmers’ limited capacity to produce more effectively impacts negatively on their enterprises, the economy and food security.
Few and poorly facilitated government extension services only exacerbate the situation, as extension officers struggle to reach out to farmers. This leaves farmers to either implement new technologies blindly or rely on archaic ways of farming.
Both strategies lead to similar results: low production, low income and an unending cycle of poverty.
Through projects such as Vijabiz, much-needed capacity reaches enthusiastic but neglected rural youth. As part of the project, youth groups were assigned to mentors in March 2019 and taken on learning journeys to selected well-established model dairy farms in Kajiado and Kakamega counties.
Part of the mentor’s responsibility is to instil entrepreneurial spirit and help the groups clear day-to-day hurdles. Creative Investors, a group of four women and six men, attended three 11-day workshops and two 8-day learning journeys.
Members learnt about crucial dairy activities such as hygienic milk production, marketing, and feed preparation techniques such as fermentation and ensiling. Incorporating these activities in the group has increased milk production, which has in turn translated to higher, sustainable income and livelihoods.
Subsequently, six other farmers visited and learnt from the Creative Investors group, creating a snowball effect in the surrounding community. More farmers have been visiting and the initial skepticism has dissipated.
The creative group, through its representatives, share their worthy experiences and outcomes:
“The mentorship and learning journeys were a real eye-opener. We were able to learn about the practicalities of dairy farming from the practitioners themselves: the challenges, the opportunities and the know-how to navigate the dairy sector. We could trust the experience of these practitioners and the mentors adapted to our group’s situation. They offered free tutorials and there was an ‘open door’ policy, where we could approach them with our questions,
improved levels of income Before the Vijabiz capacity building efforts, group members faced a situation of depressed, erratic revenue. Since March 2019, the group’s income has increased from US$250 (€230) to over US$400 (€370) per month. Higher incomes have improved the members’ and group’s credit worthiness, enhanced financial inclusion and created better standards of living,
all ten members now have active bank and mobile money accounts enabled by consistent business cash flow and a reinvigorated culture of saving.
the group’s dairy cows are well fed and healthy, enhancing the group’s asset base. This is a clear departure from the poorly fed, low producing cows that could not serve as loan collateral,”
Additionally, the members are now able to access better medical care services, education for their children and other basic needs.
For example, Benedict Wasike was a casual farm worker but because of his diligence became a group member. Now, being a fulltime employee of the group, he has a stable income and can now plan his income.
“Despite the success the group has had, more could have been achieved; the high cost of credit and pressures of inflation are still a hindrance. Some members are also reluctant to contract bank loans. The low levels of interest on savings offered by commercial banks does not help the group’s cynicism towards the commitment of financial institutions to youth empowerment. In this regard, banks should be encouraged to come up with youth-friendly saving and credit products for this underserved segment,”-VIJABIZ
The challenges…the solutions and the impact!
They faced an initial challenge of ensuring participation from the more skeptical members. For instance, some members had long believed that dairy cows should be fed on wet fodder, while the Vijabiz trained members learnt that dry matter was the best form of fodder.
However, through practical experimenting, all members saw the benefits. They tested the new ideas on a few cows to see whether the practices really worked.
For instance, by fermenting feeds, milk production increased, and by feeding cows with dry matter, milk production was notably higher.
The group also trained six neighbouring farmers and non-members who have adopted the new methods of production and dairy management. These six farmers came to the farm on their own initiative to capture what Creative Investors had learnt from the journeys, tradeshows and mentorship.
The neighbouring farmers were really happy, and, from their feedback, the group identified the potential for training other farmers for a fee.
The Creative Investors group has demonstrated a consistent income, largely driven by consistent production, a reliable market and an effective pricing strategy. This is a far cry from the past where the group made profits only during a few months per year.
Says the group:
“The market has become a reliable destination for the group’s products since customers are assured of a consistent supply. A good pricing strategy makes the most of the financial strengths of different customer segments. The exposure provided by the Vijabiz project has inspired the group to create additional revenue streams. For example, the group was only selling milk, but now also sells dairy feeds to other dairy farmers. We also intend to start a learning centre where dairy farmers can learn about better dairy management for a small fee,”
The Vijabiz project has capacity building at its core. Creative Investors Co-operative Society has already demonstrated how capacity building, mentorship sessions and learning journeys can produce tangible results in terms of better and sustainable income.
Direct financial assistance is not always a silver bullet. Building the capacity of youth to effectively tackle their day-to-day challenges has proved to be equally, if not more effective.
The leap in production and income at Creative group today, is testament enough that capacity building works, if done well. The main challenge remains ensuring buy-in and consistent application which can be achieved through gradual rather than radical adoption.
After all, change is never easy, but it is always worth it!