Smallholders pin their hopes on modern fertilizers
It is barely 4 years since Florence Apiyo first heard about the Sustainable Community-Oriented Development Programme (SCODP). Before then this farmer in the Kenyan village of Nyamwaga had barely been able to feed her family. She did have enough land, and her 5 children helped with the heavy work in the fields. But despite good rainfall the yields remained low. The soil was so leached-out after 2 crops a year that it simply yielded too little. Two 90-kilogram sacks of maize at most and a few beans was all she was able to harvest then. To be able to provide the family with maize porridge daily she would have needed 10 sacks. Her survival was assured by a small kiosk in which she sold a few items of food.
Florence Apiyos’ situation was typical of that of the small farmers in western Kenya when she was visited by Iulius Ochieng, a SCODP Worker. He encouraged her to invest 4 Kenyan shillings in a small bag of fertilizer. The result was astonishing: the crop on the fertilized part of her field proved significantly better than on the rest of the cultivated area. Florence Apiyo was convinced and went onto experiment with different means of increasing yields.
Enabling even farmers with the financial resources of a Florence Apiyo to use fertilizers is the aim of the non-governmental organization SCODP.
Wholesalers sell fertilizer only in sacks of at least 50 kilograms. Such large quantities are however too expensive for the smallholders. In 1995 SCODP therefore opened 7 shops in western Kenya in which wholesale quantities were repackaged in small and, above all, affordable 100-gram bags. This simple and practical help for subsistence farmers is called the Mini-Pack Method.
Barely víable to begin with, most SCODP sales outlets are now paying their way. Seeds are now also sold there in small quantities. Furthermore, SCODP runs training sessions at which farmers learn what materials the soil lacks and how to use the appropriate fertilizer. They are also shown that agricultural waste and weeds can be composted, also yielding good and inexpensive fertilizer. V
Florence Apiyo has now herself become a SCODP worker. In her kiosk, in which there used to be only a few items of food, she now sells Mini-Packs on commission. Florence Apiyo is now introducing her neighbours to modern farming methods which have substantially improved their standard of living.