FARM CONCERN INTERVIEW: “The future of every sector is technology for efficiency and profitability. Agriculture must not be left behind if we are to succeed in producing enough to feed the world’s population!”

1)    Let’s start with some background on Farm Concern and your work in the agri sector?
Farm Concern International, FCI is an Africa-wide agri-market development agency specialized in value chain analysis, profitable smallholder commercialization and market access. Our experiential journey spans over a decade, and has been rolled out in over 24 countries in Africa, impacting 18 million smallholder farmers and agro-pastoralists.

FCI provides direct programme implementation expertise with expanded strategic partnerships dedicated to consortiums, development partners & programmes, contractors, and International Agencies. The FCI Market Research Division has conducted over 352 value chain analysis as the first step for all smallholder market development interventions for consortiums and FCI-Implemented programmes and hence believe we have the technical capacity to conduct the market assessment and support marketing techniques.

The Commercial Village Model is FCI’s implementation approach for scale up; an innovative mass marketing system designed for high impact among large numbers of smallholder farming households through a multi-value chain focus and market linkages. FCI provides direct implementing expertise focused on expanded strategic partnerships currently with 137 development partners and market players, therefore having a proven track record in Business modelling and planning.

2)    Any projects that you are involved in in Kenya and the region that you are particularly excited about at the moment?
Farm Concern International is implementing various programmes in the region covering a wide variety of value chains. In Kenya, FCI is working in 34 counties; in Northern Kenya, we are working with agro-pastoralists to commercialize green grams and camel milk. At the coast, we are working with smallholder farmers to produce and market green gram, cow peas and local poultry. In Lower eastern green grams cow peas, sorghum, tomatoes, onions are the focus value chains. In the western belt, we are working with smallholder farmers in commercializing roots and tubers as well as horticultural commodities. Across all these regions, partnerships with buyers have been instrumental in driving income generation for farmers. Farm Concern International is also working in with SMEs to provide business skills training and product developments across the country.

3)    What in your view are the challenges to taking the agri sector in Kenya to the next level?
There is great potential for agriculture in Kenya and the region at large. One of the greatest challenge for Kenyan agriculture is dependency on rain-fed crop production making smallholder farmers’ productivity among the lowest in the world occasioned by erratic rainfall, and not conducive to support optimal crop productivity. A focus on affordable and effective water harvesting and irrigation technologies will play a big role in strengthening the agricultural sector in Kenya.

Poor quality inputs also threaten the agricultural sector in Kenya with substandard products finding their way into the market. This not only threatens productivity but also poses a huge risk to food security in this country. Efforts by all sector players need to be harnessed and tackle this issue for improved productivity and profitability.

4)    What is your vision for the agri sector in Nigeria?
Nigeria is among the three countries in Africa that have great potential for crop production alongside Tanzania and Ethiopia.  There is, however, underutilization of technology by smallholder farmers as well as high food losses due to poor agro-processing. Adoption of technology will be key in revolutionizing this sector in Nigeria.  We are focusing on working with the various players including state governments, market players, farmer organization and the private sector to build profitable and sustainable agricultural production and supply chain systems.

5)    You are supporting association Farm-Tech Expo Kenya. How important is this event to showcase the country’s agri potential?
The world has moved into the technology age, the Kenyan agricultural sector must follow suit and in fact, fast! Accessibility and affordability of new, effective and efficient technologies by smallholder farmers is a great challenge. Showcasing various technologies through the Farm-Tech Expo Kenya is a huge opportunity to bring to the fore the various technologies and solutions that are available and how they can be beneficial to the agricultural sector in Kenya. In addition, the youth have shunned agriculture due to its archaic processes, the incorporation of technology into the agriculture sector could yet be another trigger to encourage the youth to take up agriculture stemming the perennial rural urban migration that is threatening cities not only in Kenya but across Sub Saharan Africa.

6)    What will be your message at the event?
Technology must be embraced if the agricultural sector is to move forward. Looking at the other side of agro processing, more than a quarter of the world’s fresh water and a fifth of its farmland are used to produce food that is never consumed and food losses translate into income losses of 15% or more for 470 million smallholder farmers, as well as for food traders, processors, transporters, and retailers. The question then is, “how do we use technology to contribute to reduced food loss?”

7)    Anything you would like to add?
The future of every sector is technology, for efficiency and profitability. Agriculture must not be left behind if we are to succeed in producing enough to feed the world’s population!