There is so much joy and admiration when you finally come face to face with the people making Kenya’s food and agriculture sector climate-smart and spurring economic development across the country. After hearing so much about SunCulture and Mace Foods, two companies that are revolutionizing the agriculture sector in Kenya, Sarah Makena and Fredrick Odhiambo set out on a 2-day expeditious journey to Uasin-Gishu County in the Rift Valley. The trip took place so the two WE4F East Africa Regional Innovation Hub advisors could experience first-hand what our partners are doing on the ground.
SunCulture – Solar Irrigation that Improves Farmers’ Production
The first stop was the SunCulture offices, not far from the central business district of Eldoret town. The SunCulture staff was fully prepared for the visit and introduced themselves with infectious smiles on their faces.
SunCulture develops and commercializes irrigation technologies. They use a PayGo Model that allows smallholder farmers to pay in installments, giving them a chance to acquire a pump with less upfront payment. SunCulture also offers free delivery, free installation, and free after-sales services until the payment is complete.
The SunCulture team showed the WE4F team members their various solar-based products and were happy to answer Frederick and Sarah’s many questions. Together, they then set out to visit Mrs. Kiptoo (not her real name), one of the three smallholder farmers visited that day.
While the WE4F colleagues passed through the scarcely populated villages and the large tracks of land, they couldn’t help but realize that there is so much potential in this region that has often been described as Kenya’s food basket. On this day though, the ploughed lands looked lifeless and depressed, owing to delayed rains. There were no signs of irrigation activities as farmers there mainly practice rain-fed agriculture. Mrs Kiptoo is not one such farmer. Thanks to her almost three-year partnership with Sunculture, her farm is green, well irrigated, and the capsicums, tomatoes and corn on her fields are thriving.
From SunCulture, Mrs. Kiptoo acquired a submersible pump, a solar panel, drip irrigation pipes, and a hose pipe. Her husband proudly says that she is the brainchild behind all of this work, as she is the Sunculture registered member using the PayGo model.
Mace Foods – Strengthening Women farmers in Kenyan agriculture
Collaborating with over 5,600 contract farmers – a majority being women – Mace Foods boasts of being a market leader in the processing of Bird’s eye chilies and leafy vegetables that are sourced directly from the nearby farms. The final products are exported to markets in Europe, with less than 10% being sold locally.
The factory is located 15 minutes’ drive from the busy Eldoret town. Mr. Okello, who is the Operations Manager at the facility told us:
“Mace Foods has gained traction over the years, having started from humble beginnings. Being a woman-owned entity, we also make conscious decisions to have more women employees. The support from WE4F was particularly vital as we are planning to install solar panels at the rooftop of the factory to reduce the cost of electricity”
While Mace Foods has grown over the years, they still run into occasional shortages of vegetables. During droughts, farmers are not able to supply them with the right quantities. The management is thinking of establishing its own farms with irrigation to bridge this gap.
This made the EA hub team think about Mrs. Kiptoo. WE4F seeks to support the private sector to grow and scale sustainable solutions in the agriculture sector. One way of doing this is by creating strategic partnerships with small and medium-sized enterprises. The need for strategic partnerships becomes more obvious when seeing two companies like SunCulture and Mace Foods who each have a solution for the other’s challenge.
The High Potential of Synergistic Partnerships
Shortly after they were introduced, Mace Foods and Sunculture decided to collaborate to solve each other’s challenges. SunCulture farmers are now producing high-quality chillies on six hectares of land, which Mace Foods then purchases to process them. This has created a guaranteed market for the Sunculture farmers. As part of WE4F’s mandate, we will continue to facilitate more of such strategic partnerships not just in Kenya but a cross the East African region, where our SMEs are leading transformational innovations.
Fredrick Odhiambo, East Africa Regional Innovation Hub, Advisor for Monitoring & Evaluation
Fredrick has more than 8 years of experience in designing and implementing Monitoring and Evaluation approaches that have facilitated assessments, learning, and knowledge management of donor-funded development programs.