FAO Investment Centre

Practical training unlocks Kenyan farmers’ agribusiness potential

Farmers now approach farming as a business

There is growing evidence that when you invest in farmers, their capacity and motivation to produce food profitably and sustainably increases, according to a new study released by the FAO Investment Centre and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

This is particularly relevant in Kenya, where 73 percent of farmers are small-scale producers. Kenya’s agriculture sector contributes 24 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product, with 65 percent of the agricultural produce exported. The sector also employs about 40 percent of the total population, the majority of whom are from rural areas.

Agriculture therefore plays an important role in feeding the country and other countries it exports to, and in generating income for those working in the food value chain.

The Kenya study recounts experiences from the Smallholder Horticulture Empowerment and Promotion project (SHEP), which set out to bridge the formal agriculture-related training gap among Kenya’s farming population. Funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency in three phases from 2006 to 2020, the project succeeded in increasing the average net income of farmers. In the third phase of the project, the average real incomes increased by 104% for participating farmers.

 “To sustainably unlock this potential, it is important for farmers to have knowledge of products that are high in demand across the year and build their capacity to meet that demand, while also being motivated enough to continue implementing the knowledge and skills they learned on their own,” said Alberta Mascaretti, an FAO Investment Centre Service Chief.


Improved income and quality of life

Carried out in three phases, the project found that as farmers became confident in their agribusiness knowledge, their income significantly increased. With this income, they were able to invest more in their farming ventures like purchasing water tanks for irrigation, reducing reliance on rainfall and allowing them to grow and harvest during the peak season for their produce.

Their overall quality of life also improved thanks to more disposable income. Farmers now cook with gas instead of firewood, have kitchen gardens and know how to work with a budget.

SHEP empowered farmers to conduct market surveys to determine what was in high demand. Farmers interacted with a wide range of market actors through the Farm Business Linkage Stakeholder (FABLIST) Forum, where they established links with farm input suppliers, horticultural traders, financial institutions, non-governmental organizations, research institutions and other market players.

Farmers acquired a range of farm management and other skills that enabled them to select appropriate crops to grow and market, and to track expenses and incomes – enabling them to know whether they were making a profit or a loss.

After the gender awareness training, couples started working closely in planning and sharing roles both on the farm and at home. Women were able to save money and explore new business opportunities, while the youth became interested in engaging in agribusiness.

“As a result of SHEP training, many farmers started contacting the market stakeholders they met during the market surveys or FABLIST Forums on their own to obtain advice on production and marketing,” said Maina Mwangi, from Kenya’s Kenyatta University and Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services – Kenya. “They also changed their attitude that farming is really a business after realizing the availability of markets for their produce.”

Investing in farmers

This study is part of a larger global study on agriculture human capital investment carried out by the FAO Investment Centre and IFPRI, with support from the FAO Research and Extension Unit and the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM). The global study looks at recent trends, including shifts in financing and increased digitalization, and showcases nine case studies and 11 promising initiatives.

In addition to Kenya, you can read about interesting work in Cameroon, Chile, India, Indonesia, Peru, Rwanda, the United States of America, and West and Central Africa, along with the global report. 


Photo credit FAO/Luis Tato