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Empowering Farming Communities in Kenya to Support Food Security

August 15, 2023

At LDC, we have a longstanding and continued commitment to support the farming communities on which we all depend. Working with like-minded partners such as the Louis Dreyfus Foundation, we engage in projects to empower smallholder farmers to adopt sustainable agricultural practices with the potential to drive greater resilience in farming communities.

Our work with the Foundation aims to help farmers improve their yields and livelihoods, gain access to markets and open new revenue lines, while conserving soil health, natural vegetation and biodiversity.

In Kenya, we have been working alongside the Foundation on three such projects over the last few years. We spoke with Alexander Dietz, Head of East Africa, and Jacqueline Boitt, Marketer, both part of LDC’s local Grains & Oilseeds team and both supporting these projects, to find out how they’re leveraging LDC’s strong network to advance the projects and accelerate positive change in the country.

Louis Dreyfus Company and Louis Dreyfus Foundation supports rural farmers in Kenya
Alexander and Jacqueline on site one of our projects in Kenya.

Project 1

Empowering maize smallholders

Smallholder maize farmers in Kenya’s Bungoma County have been experiencing low productivity, mainly because of poor crop production practices that have also contributed to degraded soil through overuse of agrochemicals. At the same time, their market access is hindered by a fragmented value chain, whereby a variety of market players work independently.

In 2022, in collaboration with Solidaridad, we launched a four-year project to increase food security and climate resilience in the region by:

  • Increasing sustainable maize production by 50%;
  • Increasing market access for smallholders through efficient aggregation;
  • Increasing farmers’ ability to manage climate variability effects; and
  • Promoting gender and social inclusion in the value chain.

Since the project launch, 1,561 maize farmers have been trained in land preparation, soil structure, defense against weeds, use of cover crops, mulching and organic manure, seed certification, crop nutrition and fertility, and pest and disease management. 12 community leaders were also trained on gender and social inclusion, business skills, as well as nutrition and healthy diets.

Kenya-smallholder-farmer-support-Louis-Dreyfus-Foundation

In Kenya, smallholder farming communities are experiencing many challenges related to climate change and lack of resources. This project aims to make farmers more resilient to climate change and develop an ecosystem where they can achieve higher yields and increased profitability sustainably.

Jacqueline Boitt

There are many benefits to the project, one of which is the introduction of new farming processes. Smallholder farmers are trained in new agricultural methods that generate better yields, which is key to helping farmers reach a path of sustainable livelihood.

Alexander Dietz

Project 2

Promoting agroecology

Extreme drought in Kenya’s Meru and Laikipia regions has led to reduced yields for smallholder farmers, making it challenging for them to provide for their families – a situation exacerbated by the high price of agrochemicals. In this context, there is an opportunity for farmers to improve their livelihoods by transitioning to more natural production, adopting agroecology and conservation agriculture with minimum tillage.

Kenya-smallholder-farmer-support-Louis-Dreyfus-Foundation

In partnership with agri-agency Fert and the Cereals Growers Association, we developed a project to support farmers in the region by introducing agroecology production methods to increase their yields and resilience to climate change, and by creating or improving collective savings and loan systems for farmer groups.

The project has so far trained 216 farmers, 71% of whom are women, on the production of natural compost and biopesticides, which are cheaper and more sustainable alternatives to expensive agrochemicals. Eight demonstration plots and nurseries have also been established, contributing to increased income for the farmer group through vegetable and tree production, and four trial plots were set up to experiment with, and document the effectiveness of, different agroecological practices.

This ongoing project will continue to offer training, assist farmers with collective purchases of inputs and seeds, help to diversify production, and construct irrigation ponds.

This program aims to help farmers become more resilient to climate change by adopting agricultural techniques that better protect the environment. Adopting new farming methods is now increasingly important, given the context of accelerating negative impacts of global warming.

Alexander Dietz

Project 3

Supporting agricultural aggregators

On average, smallholder farmers who sell to aggregators can expect an 18% incremental income boost, but buying farmers’ crops requires significant cashflow during the harvest, before the aggregators’ own customers have paid them. Without access to capital, aggregators simply cannot purchase farmers’ crops, so farmers sell their harvest elsewhere, for lower prices.

To address this issue, we are supporting an ongoing project to establish a more stable market for farmers, working with Root Capital. 14 agricultural businesses, including aggregators and grains processors, were identified and are currently being supported by professional advisors as part of the project’s initial focus on capacity building, to accelerate credit-readiness. Through this support, aggregators will be able to offer tens of thousands of smallholder farmers more stable market access and more secure livelihoods.

Volunteering as part of these projects reinforces our bond with local farming communities, and we get a better understanding of their needs and challenges, which makes us grow both personally and professionally.

Alexander Dietz

The project will continue to support aggregators by developing tailored work plans, enhancing business management skills through workshops and onsite training, and supporting loan applications, related due diligence, as well as loan servicing and monitoring.

Though very different, these three joint projects with the Louis Dreyfus Foundation share a common goal to improve the production and livelihoods of rural Kenya’s farming communities by engaging with farmers, farmers groups, cooperatives and aggregators to improve small farm productivity and income sustainably, and developing value chains beyond the farm gate.

The dedication of Team LDC members like Jacqueline and Alexander, who volunteer their time, energy and expertise to drive these initiatives forward and advocate for future programs, is crucial to success – so the last few words are theirs:

Kenya-smallholder-farmer-support-Louis-Dreyfus-Foundation

Stable market access is crucial to an improved, and more secure, income for farmers. This project helps farmers to move away from subsistence farming by providing better market exposure, creating new income opportunities for farmers.

Jacqueline Boitt

It’s so rewarding to feel we are making a difference, especially when we get to see the concrete results of our involvement, such as increased production, or young people getting access to quality education and establishing themselves as farmers at the end of their studies.

Jacqueline Boitt

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