By using our site you accept the terms of our cookie policy

Case Studies

EPK Wins Sustainability Award

THE ISSUE

25 years ago, EPK initiated an Outgrowers Department made up of 9 smallholder farmers. Today there are around 8,000 tea farmers in the Nandi Hills area, with over 40,000 dependents. Originally, the purpose was to assist tea farmers by processing their tea and securing a market for them. Over time however, it became noted that smallholder farmer’s production was low, due to the small nature of their farm holding, limited resource management skills and inadequate technical knowhow to efficiently manage their farms. This limited their income ability and exposed them to economic hardships. It was important to provide interventions that were both practical and sustainable that would improve their income. To date numbers have grown to a total of 10,000 registered smallholders with pieces of land ranging from 0.2 to 10Ha.

Through the programme EPK identified a gap in farmer networking. A ‘success loop’ was needed to enable the growth and future success of the smallholders, not only in the supply of green leaf, but also in social and economic empowerment. An outreach method was established to help them garner knowledge, tools, and practices and to adopt advanced technology towards their empowerment. Therefore, the programme has been designed to address income empowerment, food security, good health and well-being targeting the UN's Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2 and 3.

Image
Image
Image

DESIGN OF THE INTERACTION

The components of the programme include farmer interaction, capacity building and training through Mini Field Days, Major Field Days and smallholder extension services.

Mini Field Days

Our farmer field days aim to develop both innovation and replication. By conducting the Mini Field Days per region, we have been able to reach individual farmer needs without ignoring the needs of the larger smallholder community. These farmer focused workshops provide the Outgrowers Department with a snapshot of smallholders’ concerns in relation to their farms and help to identify areas to cover during the Major Field Day. The Mini Field Days have also become a platform for distributing farmer or region-specific interventions.  Mini Field Days are held every quarter/6 months per region, whilst the Major Field Days are held once every 2 years.  Our Extension Officers are key to the Mini Field Day's, providing practical demonstrations alongside stakeholders to ensure the farmers learn by practical experiences; 'by farmers, for farmers'. This enables them to put into practice what they learn with support from the Extension Officer when needed.

Extension Services and Exchange Visits

We have been able to give our smallholders concise, up to date information on good agricultural practices (GAP), provide access to banking platforms and have facilitated exchange visits with their peers in other regions, thus enabling them to realise their full potential.

With the knowledge that our smallholders prefer interpersonal communication with experts and other farmers, we have engaged four Extension Officers, each covering a region with on an average 2,000 farmers.

Major Field Days

Themes for the Major Field Days are informed by issues arising in the Mini Field Day sessions. The themes are used to focus the field and provide the partners and exhibitors with a guide to the presentations, maximizing the impact of the days message. During the day, farmers can access various goods and services that can enhance their farming practices and improve their livelihoods. The exhibitors, aware of the objectives of the programme, come equipped to train the farmers further. The Major Field Days provide a rewarding opportunity to showcase achievements and best practices for sustainability, exposing farmers to highlights of real world practices that have been successful.

Image
Image

IMPACT

Since the inception of the Smallholder Empowerment Programme, we have observed strengthened capacity and increased knowledge ownership by farmers through discovery-based learning. The farmers are now able to make informed choices. By empowering the farmers, we have supported a journey that has seen them purchase an estate with its own factory, and in addition build one of the tallest and outstanding business premises in Nandi County. Furthermore, the farmers have become known as a Centre of Excellence in the region, used as a benchmark for visiting farmers. The confidence, enhanced capacity and strengthened platform for networking has seen the smallholder farmers grow to a level where we consider ourselves as partners in the tea business.

VALIDATION

Farmer field days were established to bring farmers, land owners and agribusiness stakeholders together to learn from one another and have proved to be the most successful outreach method with smallholders.

We have realised that an awareness of environmental conservation is missing in most counties in Kenya. Our field days provide education which supports smallholders, including a basic understanding of soil erosion control measures, among many good agricultural practices.

Over the years, networking amongst smallholders has driven the growth of the programme, allowing the effects of the programme to be felt by the broader community as evidenced by increased participation by both farmers and exhibitors. Techniques have been learnt and replicated by the smallholders neighbours, resulting in more smallholders adopting a nurturing approach to environmental conservation as well as good agricultural practice.

Our Extension Officers have noted a greater uptake of agricultural technologies as well as further interactions with the exhibitors beyond the initial field days. This, alongside increased tea yields, is evidence that objectives of the programme are being met.

Image
Image

HURDLES TO SUCCESS

  • Inviting a more diverse range of exhibitors would enable the smallholders to learn more. Departments such as the Fisheries Ministry could potentially be of interest to the farmers
  • Cultural beliefs are often a barrier during assessments of individual smallholder farms, which can then prevent some from taking part and or attending awards presentations
  • Budgetary constraints have limited the Major Field Days to once every two years. In future we hope to have the events annually to enable continuous, regular engagement with the community
  • Communication can be an issue due to language barriers, especially for exhibitors from outside the county; in future, the organisers will provide translations for the smallholders, allowing them to gain more from the exhibitors
  • The political nature of our country has seen politicians use events such as the field days for political mileage

COLLABORATION

We work with many stakeholders to achieve all-round success. The government is involved in all areas, from needs assessment to planning and implementation. Advice from the Ministry of Agriculture, The Kenya Forestry Research Institute, KEFRI and Tea Directorate among others are incorporated in all events. As a way of fostering positive influence on good agricultural practice (GAP) and improve adoption, farms are assessed prior to the field days. The best farmers are identified and congratulated during the field day event. The assessment of the farmers is completed in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture.

Image

TRANSPARENCY

  • Our field days are an open forum, invitation is extended to all stakeholders including competitors, to learn and replicate in their communities
  • The farm assessment is carried out though a standardised checklist, which has objective questions presented to all participants
  • Funds are allocated through recurrent budgets for conducting field days. These expenditures form part of the accounts that are audited by both internal and external audit
  • The event is publicised through the local media which has a non-discriminate outreach to all
  • Best green leaf price in region
Image

TRANSFERABILITY

Attending field days regularly has proven to increase a smallholder’s access to network with others about good agricultural practices and to connect to resources for empowerment. Attendees in turn influence their peers expanding the reach of information and supporting more farmers in the adoption of new practices for their own good. We have a dedicated General Manager Client Operations, with a team of Extension Officers whose focus is on the smallholders with the local and extended community. The team addresses environmental and sustainability issues and provides feedback to the General Manager.

COMMUNICATION

  • Updates on our social media pages and both company and Group website inform of the progress made as a result of the programme
  • Our Major Field Days are announced in local media stations to not only mobilize, but also verify the activity to county officials
  • Communication is sent out to the County Government and relevant ministries who have always acknowledged the events
  • Farmers have said the field days have met or exceeded expectations
  • OEOs have received feedback requesting further insight in areas of interest by the farmers
  • Records of the events are kept by the Outgrowers Department and are used to complete analysis of progress of the Mini Field Days on a continuous basis
  • Annual reports produced by the Outgrowers department are used to assess the significance of the Smallholder Empowerment Programme