Farmer to farmer learning promotes commercialisation of forage value chain

Applying forage research to generate evidence that will help farmers innovate.

Group photo of farmers

The Integrated & Climate Smart Innovations for Agro pastoralist Economies and Landscapes in Kenya’s ASALs (ICSIAPL) project in Kenya aims to improve the livelihoods of agro-pastoralist communities through improved forage production and livestock husbandry, building on commercialisation of climate smart innovations and sustainable landscape and rangeland management in Taita Taveta, Kajiado and Narok counties. The project is funded through the Delegated Cooperation by the European Union and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs/DGIS of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

An important approach within the project is to apply forage research to generate evidence that will fast-track adoption of innovations. This is done through supporting the private sector to adopt and facilitate building more resilient and market-based solutions for improved forage production and livestock husbandry by agro-pastoralists. Livestock keepers, commercial forage producers, ranches and conservancies are also considered agro pastoralists.

During the last quarter of 2022, for three weeks, agro pastoralist groups from the three counties attended a training in Timothy’s farm in Meru at Itiri farm to learn more on forage production and the dairy business. Despite the weather conditions and environment in Meru being a contrast to the reality within the ASAL areas, lessons learned focused on the business model for forage production, feeding, feeding strategies, silage making and the costing of the forage business model.

A photo of farmers attending a training
A photo of a farmer looking at produce

Timothy’s Itiri farm was supported by SNV’s Kenya Market-Led Dairy Program (KMDP). He received intensive skills-based training and was coached as a lead farmer on animal husbandry, farm economics, fodder production, management, and conservation practices. The KMDP project promoted maize silage and improved forages like Brachiaria and Panicum Siambasa in partnership with CIAT, Meru Union and 35 dairy cooperatives.

In addition to growing improved forages and maize silage in his own dairy farm and increasing productivity and profitability of his animals, Timothy formed a group to provide silage making services to members of his cooperative (Mbwinjeru Dairy Cooperative Society) being one of the youth groups supported by KMDP under the Service Providers Enterprise (SPE) model. The project took these groups through an intensive training and coaching on enterprise development and services related to silage making.

Itiri Farm later started training local farmers in good dairy management practices at a fee paid by the trainees, using the training modules received from Baraka Farm. In addition, Timothy established a successful SPE group that – as of today – still provides silage making services to dairy farmers in Meru commercially. He also trains SPE groups from other parts of Meru or Kenya.

His ability to now inspire other groups to provide consistent feeding to the animals to increase milk production and establish a viable business model, is motivating other farmers to venture into the same. The farmers drawn from the ASAL Counties will be using different forage varieties suited to their climatic conditions such as Sugar graze and Nutrifeed but using a similar concept of the SPE business model. With the provision of machinery to farmer groups for silage or hay making, youths can generate an income for themselves through service provision within the fodder value chain.

KALRO, a partner implementing the ICSIAPL project has been training the same farmers on growing forage varieties fit to their respective environments. Meanwhile, through the Small Investment Fund managed by SNV (requiring co-funding from the producer organizations), farmer groups have been able acquire machinery and inputs for hay and silage making and storage that will benefit both their respective groups, members and the community. With both the technical and financial support producer organizations are better able to support their community in realizing stable feed supply for their animals – even during the prolonged drought seasons.

SNV will continue to support farmer groups in Taita Taveta, Kajiado and Narok Counties to build their resilience to climate shocks through innovative, smart and climate resilient fodder innovations.