Posts Tagged ‘Kenya’

Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Brings Business Support to Farmers in Kenya

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

By Donna Rosa, Volunteer for the Farmer-to-Farmer (FTF) Program 

Donna Rosa, with the Huruma Women’s Group in Kibwezi, Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Donna Rosa.)

Donna Rosa, with the Huruma Women’s Group in Kibwezi, Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Donna Rosa.)

The Farmer-to-Farmer Program is well known for providing technical assistance to small farms in developing countries, but did you know that the program also contributes much-needed business support to agribusinesses and small food enterprises?  After all, farms are businesses.

I recently returned from a volunteer assignment in Kenya where I helped a women’s community group with a complete business evaluation, business plan, financial tracking, business development, and business advisory services. I was sent by CRS under USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer Program. This program sends U.S. volunteers to developing countries to assist small farms, agribusinesses, cooperatives, and food processors.  Volunteers are selected for specific skills, and they work hands-on in the field for 2-4 weeks. Expenses are covered by the program. Group training is often involved, but work with individual businesses is also typical.

While much of the Farmer-to-Farmer work involves horticulture support, there are assignments that call for small business support and training.  My experience in Kenya is an example. It illustrates how one person can make a difference. I feel strongly that there is not enough individualized business support for small enterprises in developing countries, particularly at the base of the pyramid.

I worked with the Huruma Women’s Group in Kibwezi.  This remarkable group of 30 women (and one man!) understands that if they want to improve their lives, they must take action to help themselves.  They formed a community group after seeking and receiving local training in crop irrigation.  In addition to providing ongoing social services for the community, they also took advantage of training in basic commercial food preparation and processing.  Importantly, they came to understand the concept of adding value.

Along the way they entered and won a contest by collecting the detergent packages. But instead of splitting the 250,000 Kenyan Shillings (about 3,000 USD) winnings among the group, they used it to purchase milling equipment in order to generate ongoing income. Pretty smart and a flicker of business acumen.

Huruma began by offering milling services to individuals and schools in the community, and later opened a small retail store where they sell flours, flour blends, crafts, dried fruits and vegetables, and snacks. The group members are poor, illiterate and lacking in business skills (especially record keeping).  They required help with their day-today business, but also needed a business plan to provide a roadmap.

Inside the Huruma Women’s Group retail shop in Kibwezi, Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Donna Rosa.)

Inside the Huruma Women’s Group retail shop in Kibwezi, Kenya. (Photo courtesy of Donna Rosa.)

That’s where I came in.

What was the experience like? The area was rural and very poor.  I stayed in a local guest house where the accommodations were basic, but the staff couldn’t have been nicer. Internet access was manageable but spotty and slow, and there were several power and water outages.

I met with the group several times under a towering fig tree, with occasional visits from cows, goats, chickens, and baboons. Only one member, Rahema Madega, spoke English. I also met with the group’s stakeholders, including local government officials, USAID, customers, suppliers, and other women’s groups. I used afternoons, evenings, and weekends to work on the business plan, financial templates, analysis, final report and presentation for CRS in Nairobi.

I asked a lot of questions, but the poor record keeping made it difficult to get an accurate picture of the financial status. They did not have a handle on either income or expenses. Still, I was able to make recommendations. For example, Rahema was managing the entire enterprise herself, and this is not sustainable. We outlined a management team structure in order to split the work, but there will be challenges to find people with the requisite skills.

The milling operation was losing money due to constant equipment breakdowns, but they had taken steps to purchase new equipment and locate better manufacturing and retail facilities from the county government so they might eventually become a certified food processing plant. Huruma also had a solar drying facility donated by USAID that was completely underutilized, so we explored other fruits and vegetables that they could dry and sell at low manufacturing cost but good profit margins. In addition we identified marketing tools, promotion ideas, and new value-added products that they could add longer term. They now have a plan to use as a guide for growth and importantly, to obtain financing.

This type of volunteer work is ideal if you enjoy hands-on international development experience and learning about a culture by living it. It is also great for building experience for a career or job change, if you can block the time to do it. Each assignment is unique, and the challenge is exceedingly gratifying.

For more information on the Farmer-to-Farmer Program click here.

20 Years, 11 Countries: Q&A with Farmer-to-Farmer Volunteer Tom Cadwallader

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Editor’s Note: This article is a contribution to a week-long blog carnival on USAID’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program. From July 14-18, F2F program partners and American volunteers are sharing their knowledge and experience of providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. This blog carnival aims to capture and share this program experience. You can find all contributions on Agrilinks.

Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Tom Cadwallader poses for a picture with members of the Kitui Development Centre (KDC) in Kenya. Tom conducted a month-long assignment to build the capacity of the KDC by designing effective data collection tools and monitoring systems to ensure efficient poultry project management. Copyright Thomas Cadwallader, 2014

Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Tom Cadwallader poses for a picture with members of the Kitui Development Centre (KDC) in Kenya. Tom conducted a month-long assignment to build the capacity of the KDC by designing effective data collection tools and monitoring systems to ensure efficient poultry project management. Copyright Thomas Cadwallader, 2014

Thomas Cadwallader is a seasoned Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer, having volunteered in over 20 countries around the world. This spring, he traveled to Kenya to work with the Kitui Development Centre. Read on to hear about his experiences in the field and the impact he made.

CRS: Tell us a little bit about your relationship with the Farmer-to-Farmer program?

Tom: In 2013 I celebrated 20 years of assignments through the Farmer-To-Farmer program. I was approached for my first assignment by a good friend who had taken the job of VOCA Country Director in Macedonia. My friend knew that I came from a fairly diverse farming background that provided me with lots of experience in everything from commercial production to direct marketing so I he thought I could draw from those experiences to customize the assignment as needed once I got on the ground.

After meeting with the brothers, I found that they had lots of great things going on and I was able to finish my assignment early. That allowed me the opportunity to take on another assignment in Slovakia with a gentleman who was putting a business plan together for a dairy goat operation. I was hooked. Although my career with the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service and helping my wife run our own farm were keeping me plenty busy, whenever I saw an opportunity to work on an interesting project and I could carve time out of my schedule I jumped on the chance. Over those 20 years, I’ve worked on about 25 individual assignments in 11 different countries around the globe; from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia to the rain forest of Guyana.


CRS Prays for Peace Ahead of Kenya’s Elections

Monday, February 25th, 2013

As the March 4 national elections in Kenya grow nearer, CRS is urging all concerned to pray for peace as millions of Kenyans prepare to head to the polls.

In December 2007, disputed elections triggered wide-spread ethnic violence, killing more than 1,000 people and displacing some 300,000. CRS responded by providing food and supplies to displaced families and by supporting the peace and conciliation efforts of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops and other faith based networks.

“Kenya is at critical time in its history with an opportunity to either firmly demonstrate its national identity or regress into destructive tribalism. Never again does Kenya want to re-live the tragic experience of 2007,” said P.M. Jose, CRS’ Kenya Country Representative in Nairobi. “This is a time for Kenyans to assert – and be proud of – their identities as citizens of this great nation, one that believes in itself and in its institutions, while honoring their own ethnic identities.”

With some incidents of violence already reported in the run up to the vote, CRS is continuing support of the Kenyan Church and its other partners in their efforts to promote peace.

Somalia Refugees: Hygiene Trainer Measures Up

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

In a refugee camp in northern Kenya, someone is teaching people how to wash their hands properly. The demonstrator lathers the soap, pours water, and rubs her hands together in a circular motion. She works slowly and systematically, making sure her nails are clean too. A crowd of children gathers, watching. Their “teacher” is three years old.

Read the rest of the story here.

A Hungry Childhood

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Kenya Hunger

Peter Kimeu is a small-scale farmer in Machakos, Kenya, and a technical adviser for Catholic Relief Services, a humanitarian organization. Photo by Sara A. Fajardo / CRS

Hunger is an unforgivable disease because it is the easiest one to cure. It is devastating to wake up in the morning and look east, west, south and north and see that there is nothing green that you can chew. During a drought everything goes yellow and dry. I would walk the roads and search the ground to see if someone had spat out a bit of chewed-up sugar cane. I am not ashamed to say that I would re-chew what I would find. Hunger is dehumanizing. It gets to a level where you do not know how you will survive and you will do anything for a simple kernel of corn.

The thing about drought is that it does not just affect farmers and their crops; it affects everyone. If you think about it, during harvest time farmers hire local farmhands to help with their crops. But when there are no crops to harvest, not only does the farmer lose his or her income, so do the laborers the farmer would have hired. There is a ripple effect that affects the whole community. Few have food and even fewer have money to buy food.

Peter Kimeu’s opinion piece about growing up hungry was published in the September 11 edition of the New York Times.

Somalia Refugees Seek Food, Safety in Kenya

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
Refugees in Kenya

Ahada’s four-year-old son was shot while protecting the family’s goats. She and her remaining children fled to Kenya, where they now live in a refugee camp that is filled to overflowing. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS

“Aden, my oldest son, was four years old. He was watching our goats,” says Ahada, a Somali woman in her early twenties. “Men with guns came and wanted the animals. Aden shouted, ‘Don’t take our goats!'”

Ahada’s small son was caught in the midst of a chaotic, seemingly never-ending war in Somalia. Armed bandits, militias and other violent groups terrorize the country’s rural population, who are mostly nomadic herdsmen. Children are not spared. Aden wasn’t.

Aden’s death by shooting came in the midst of a drought that was leading to famine. Ahada’s husband was also killed by militants; she knew she had to flee. She’d heard of a country called Kenya, so she took her two children there, crossing the border.

Kenya: 16-Year-Old Heads Family of Six

Monday, October 4th, 2010
Kenya family

Pamela Gilardi, second from left, and CRS major gift officer, Barbara Roth, second from right, meet with the Otieno children in their home in rural Kenya. Photo by Pamela Gilardi

CRS Foundation Board member, Pamela Gilardi, recently traveled with CRS Major Gifts Officer, Barbara Roth, to visit our work in Kenya. They witnessed projects that brought water to nomadic herders and met with several children who lost their parents to HIV. They share with us their visit to a home in rural Kenya run by a 16-year-old boy named Polycarp.

It’s the middle of the afternoon when we arrive at Polycarp’s house. A blanket divides the mud structure into two rooms, one for sleeping and one for daily living. The living area is furnished with three wooden chairs, a bench, and a small table. That’s everything. There’s not a toy in sight.

Polycarp is 16, but looks about 12. He lives with his sister, Idda, and four cousins, Mercy, Simon, Vitalis, and Jenipher, who range in age from 8 to 14. First Polycarp’s parents passed away in 2005, and he and Idda went to live with their uncle, Mercy’s father, but all six children were left on their own when he died earlier this year.

A Sharing of Faith, Culture and Life

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Next week, nine parishioners from Kitui, Kenya, will visit parishes in Minnesota as part of a series of exchanges between the Diocese of Kitui and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. A recent article in the Catholic Spirit describes this partnership, which began in 2004 as a response to the U.S. bishops’ call for greater solidarity with Africa.

“It will be a sharing of faith, culture and life,” says Mike Haasl, global solidarity coordinator for the archdiocesan Center for Mission.

The partnership also has a strong service component. In an act of solidarity, participants at almost 80 archdiocesan parishes and schools gave up all beverages except for water for two weeks. They then donated the money they saved–about $150,000!–to help finance the construction of a series of dams to provide water for villages in the Kitui diocese. Villagers helped build the dams, stretching the donated dollars even further. This teamwork is especially inspiring as drought leaves more and more Kenyans without food, including in the hard-hit Kitui region.

Easter Blessings for Kenyan Girls

Thursday, April 9th, 2009
Kenya rite

16-year-old Caroline Kanana discusses the alternative rite of passage. Photo by Debbie DeVoe/CRS

During the Easter school holidays, 150 adolescent girls in central Kenya will undergo an alternative rite of passage. Instead of heading to a secluded area for their traditional passage into adulthood, they will spend a week living at a local school attending workshops. Community volunteers will teach them about traditional lore, health issues, and important skills, including how to be a good wife and care for children.

These girls’ seclusion will be very different than the usual ritual. While they will learn the critical lessons they need to become women ready to marry, they will avoid being circumcised–a cultural practice still undertaken across much of Kenya and many other countries.

Liz Quirin, editor of The Messenger-the diocesan paper of Belleville, Illinois-recently met with girls who had undergone the alternative seclusion and wrote a powerful story about this CRS-supported project. Watch our own Web site too, as a story from my prior visit will be posted soon.

– Debbie DeVoe, regional information officer for East Africa

A Partnership in its Prime

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Gilbert Namwonja, CRS Kenya’s information officer, shares how the Dioceses of St. Cloud, Minn., and Homa Bay, Kenya, have built a powerful partnership.

After a week living in the Diocese of Homa Bay in western Kenya, the 20 Catholics from the Diocese of St Cloud, Minnesota, not only knew how and when to say “ero kamano,” but they were using it very well and very often.