As part of the CRAFT (Climate Resilient Agribusiness for Tomorrow) project interventions, Agriterra conducted a Climate Clever Check and facilitated sustainable services workshops for cooperatives to prepare them for a sustainable future. Starlight Farmers’ Cooperative Society in Kenya, specialised in potatoes, and Kisoro District Potato Growers Union in Uganda, focused on potatoes, are two of the 15 cooperatives benefitting from this project intervention.
In partnership with SNV, Wageningen University and Wageningen Environmental Research, CIGAR’s Climate Change agriculture and Food Security Programme (CCAFS), and Rabo Partnerships, Agriterra works towards supporting farmers capacity to become adaptive and resilient to climate shocks.
Agriterra provides expert advice and training to cooperatives and farmer organisations in emerging economies. It aims to strengthens farmer ownership and stimulate economic growth, which has great impact on the socio-economic situation and livelihoods of rural areas. The main role of Agriterra in CRAFT is institutionalising the climate interventions at cooperative level.
The Climate Clever Check covers the key areas of FAO's CSA (Climate Smart Agriculture) practices: better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life for all. It identifies which climate issues cause most problems and whether the cooperative and farmers have been able to implement effective climate clever solutions. It leads cooperatives to sustainably increase production and income, strengthen agricultural resilience to climate change impacts and variability, reduce carbon house gas emissions from agriculture activities and increase carbon uptake on farmlands.
Agriterra facilitated a Climate Clever Check at cooperatives in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. One of these is Kisoro District Potato Growers Union (KDPGCU). The cooperative is a union of 12 primary cooperatives with 2728 members who are engaged in highland farming of potato.
Agriterra, together with the Union, assessed the cooperative and farmer’s climate cleverness. They found that water availability, post-harvest losses, drought and unpredictable weather are significant issues for the cooperative and farmers. In addition, adoption of climate smart responses to these challenges is still low and this is majorly due to limited capital for investment. Therefore, the farmers implement traditional techniques like digging trenches and using animal waste as fertiliser.
This assessment was the basis for further steps to be taken where Agriterra provided support, in supporting the Union develop climate smart business plans and their implementation, developing financing strategies for the investments needed, and institutionalising the Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) interventions, which will help to change traditional agricultural practices towards green and climate resilient ones.
The developed plan recommended the cooperative use solar powered irrigation to counter drought, promoting pest and disease resistant and drought tolerant varieties of potatoes, invest and improve post-harvest handling practices, crop insurance, soil testing and use of optimal organic and inorganic fertilisers.
With support from CRAFT under the Climate Investment and Innovation Facility (CIIF), the cooperative has been able to adopt and provide its members with a bundle of CSA solutions. With a matching grant, the Union has been able to source quality declared seeds from NARO (National Agricultural Research Organization), trained 120 seed multipliers and construct a diffuse light store to maintain the quality of seeds produced. ‘We would plant one sack of potatoes and harvest five bags, but with improved seeds, we harvest between 8-9 bags,’ shares Enid Sayuni, a member of the cooperative.
To augment this, CRAFT project and Agriterra have facilitated various partnerships and collaborations with experts, in climate, to develop and implement effective solutions. For example, six cooperatives have been linked to the Ugandan Development Bank for access to finance, enabling them to make sustainable investments. In addition, cooperatives have been supported with access to quality inputs like potato and sunflower seeds. This has made smallholder farmers more resistant to changing climate conditions.
Along with the Climate Clever Check, Agriterra facilitated Sustainable Services Workshops. The workshops support farmers’ organisations/cooperatives to develop a farmer-led and financially sustainable services system. The goal of these workshops is to identify the wants and needs of the farmers concerning Climate Smart Agricultural Practices and support the cooperatives provide them sustainably. Sustainable and robust extension services system increases the production and productivity of the crop, the income of smallholder households, and the resilience of farmers to climate change in the different regions.
Starlight Farmers’ Cooperative Society in Kenya, through the support of the project, set up several demonstration farms where farmers were trained to increase farmer yields and quality and build farmer resilience regarding climate change. This service shows CSA practices like soil and water management, pest and disease control, and harvesting and post-harvesting techniques.
As a result of Starlight providing this service, farmers have adopted and maintained CSA practices. ‘I am accustomed to the traditional method of potato farming, but with the ever-changing weather patterns, the use of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices has proven to be more sustainable in increasing my productivity,’ says Emily Sitienei, a smallholder farmer during a CSA training through the Starlight Farmers’ Cooperative Society.
SMEs and Farmer cooperations (in the Global South) play a key role in supporting Smallholder Farmers with information on and services in CSA techniques for increased productivity, and aggregation, post-harvest handling, product value addition and market linkages contributing to both better farmer incomes and increased nutritious food availability at affordable prices. More work is needed to be done to further prepare and equip farmers to the changing climate conditions, but major steps have been taken so far. CRAFT and Agriterra are determined to further support cooperatives.