My name is Stewart Skinner, I am a Canadian farmer from Listowel, Ontario. In 2013 I went on my first trip to Kenya, visiting the Cherangany region near Kitale. While I was there, I visited with local farmers, forging relationships that have continued to this day. During that first visit I met many farmers frustrated with the lack of control when it came to marketing their products. I shared with them the story of how co-operatives helped farmers transform their fortunes in the first half of the 20th century, giving the foundation for the growth that enables just 2% of us to feed North America. When I returned in 2015 many of the farmers I had met in 2013 had banded together and formed Mwaita co-op. The new co-op allowed member farmers to sell their milk more efficiently. This program has been successful and today almost 1000 farmers are benefiting from higher milk prices and stable markets provided by the co-op. Beyond stable markets, a strategic partnership with Dairy Farmers of Cherangany (DFC) allows members to use milk checkoffs through a Savings and Credit Cooperative Organisation (SACCO) to pay for large household expenses like school fees and hospital bills, avoiding high interest fees (15%-30%) on market loans. The alliance with DFC also allows farmers to access feed and other farm supplies through DFC bulk purchasing program that also includes 3 other local co-ops.
Since my visit in 2015, I have kept in touch with members of Mwaita and last year co-op member Eliud Kitchen shared that the co-op had an opportunity to market poultry in local hotels and restaurants and that it would be a good chance to diversify the co-op business. The funds raised by this campaign will be used as seed money to launch a pilot project to test viability of poultry production for co-op members.
10 farmers will be selected who can demonstrate they have adequate skills and resources to care for a flock of 120 chickens. A priority will be placed on working with female farmers who lack the financial ability to purchase dairy cows yet are engaged in agriculture. Poultry farming at this scale is a great way for families to have a small enterprise with a low cost of entry that provides a steady level of income. A member of the co-op who also works for the SACCO, Stephen Kiptoo, is working as our point of contact in the region throughout the planning process. During our visit, the permanent point of contact for the poultry project will be identified to ensure there is a conduit for information and knowledge transfer.
The funds will be used as follows:
1200 chicks @ 100ksh per chick: 120k ksh
1.75MT of feed @80k ksh/MT: 140k ksh
352 egg incubator: 60k ksh
Breeding Hens OR deposit for supply of fertilized eggs from breeder in Kitale: 60k ksh
5000 Canadian dollars is approximately 380k ksh based on current exchange rates. Before our departure on March 6th, the funds will be withdrawn into our personal bank account from GoFundMe in Canadian dollars and we will transfer them into USD. (Due to selecting CAD as our currency with GoFundMe we must withdraw CAD. USD are used as the wire currency due to ease of conversion in Kenya. ) When we arrive in the region we will utilize a wire service provided by our bank, Libro Credit Union or a trusted 3rd party service like Western Union, to wire USD for the full amount raised by the campaign. The wire will be sent to the Mwaita Co-op bank account and then Mwaita will provide payment to to the hatchery that is selected as chick supplier. Mwaita will pay Dairy Farmers of Cherangany for feed as it is delivered through their current feed supply agreement terms.
The monies allocated for the incubator and breeder hens/fertilized eggs will not be spent until a meeting of the co-op board that will take place during our visit. The co-op board is best positioned to identify which route would have the best chance of success as replacements are the key part of long term project sustainability.
This is a great way to give a gift that keeps on giving; Mwaita co-op has demonstrated that they value financial support and have worked incredibly hard to be responsible with funds while working to create better income for their farmer members. The initial investments in Mwaita have provided better lives for over 1000 families and it is our hope that this initiative can help this group of motivated farmers continue to realize new levels of success