Agribusiness Helps Smallholder Farmers Navigate Market Challenges

Nicholas Owiti (left) discusses his agribusiness with Bountifield Market System’s Specialist Geoffrey Nyamoto (right)

Nicholas Owiti, a father of three, owns and operates a Farm Service Centre (FSC) in Homa Bay County in Western Kenya. Through his FSC, he helps 500 local farmers obtain seeds and fertilizer, provides them with education to safeguard their crops, and assists with mechanical needs by offering services for plowing and threshing. After harvest, his farm store serves to aggregate crops for sorghum farmers and contracts sales with East Africa Breweries.

Nicholas began his FSC in 2016 through the Cereal Growers Association (CGA) of the United Nations World Food Program. This connection helped open doors by linking him to Agrimech Africa, an Agri-mechanization company who assigned him a tractor to allot plowing for a commission. However, the postharvest process for threshing sorghum remains laborious and inefficient without access to support and mechanization, making it difficult to create enough commodity to interest buyers. But with the launch of Bountifield International’s Mavuno Bora project in Kenya, Nicholas will now be able to expand his enterprise to include motorized threshing services to sorghum farmers to his existing customer base through his FSC.

Nicholas (left) visits the farmer of one of his clients that processes sorghum by hand. Nicholas hopes to help them improve their production by offering motorized threshing services through his FSC.

Nicholas understands the opportunities for sorghum and this knowledge, combined with business training he will receive from Bountifield, will help him to expand his business for capitalizing on income generation while supporting smallholder farmers with their sorghum production. “I have seen farmers commit more land for the production of sorghum due to availability of a mechanical threshing mechanisms” says Nicholas.

The agribusiness potential with an agricultural entrepreneur like Nicholas is a key factor in helping Africa to feed herself. This approach supports to maximize the efforts and output of smallholder farmers in order to reach larger markets. However, this year’s pandemic has created some challenges for sorghum farmers with a decreased demand from buyers. Nicholas remains hopeful that the markets will stabilize and, with the support of Bountifield and other partners, he’ll continue to explore ways to diversify his agribusiness and markets, including through other value addition opportunities for sorghum.

Without access to mechanized labor, smallholder farmers process sorghum by a process of beating the grain, a laborious process that provides no control over quality and results in spillage and high-levels of postharvest loss.

”Now that we have a thresher within our reach, we will scale production and marketing of sorghum,” says Nicholas. “Even if the market is being destabilized by COVID-19 we will look for other markets and we hope at some point we can add value to our sorghum so that we take care of the market instability.”

While COVID-19 has presented hurdles for agriculture production, market disruptions are not new to Kenya or other countries throughout sub-Saharan Africa. These farmers often face challenges such as extreme weather, invasions of locusts, and the adverse effects of climate change. But with access to tools and resources made available through programs like Bountifield’s Mavuno Bora project, entrepreneurs can introduce more efficient production practices for smallholder farming, strengthening their food systems and making them more resilient to challenges in the future. Nicholas’s multi-crop thresher will help him to do just that, not only improving his own livelihood, but also that of the 500 farmers he serves.

This process of winnowing is dependent on the wind and is extremely laborious, mostly done by woman. Nicholas’s threshing service will help make this more efficient.

Bountifield is proud to partner with Nicholas and to support the growth and expansion of his Farm Service Centre in Kenya.

The Mavuno Bora Project in Kenya is funded by the van Lengerich family.