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Knowledge is power

t-story-4.jpgZegera Thomas has been farming for much of his life. At age 32, he and his wife Chausiku James, have four daughters to support from their on farm income. Zegera joined a Farmers Field School (FFS) group in Kambugu village and holds a position of local facilitator. When he met with CPAR staff during a recent monitoring visit, he shared his story of change.

“I have been growing maize for a number of years but would only ever produce about four bags from an acre of land. When these bags ran out, I would have to buy food to feed my family and this was always very costly. I needed to find a new way to support my family. I took the chance to join the Jipemoyo “Take Heart” FFS group and here learned a number of skills to help me produce more efficiently. As a group, we applied different methods on our demonstration plot to test out different practices and analyze the results. I began applying conservation agriculture to my land and was able to increase my production to 180 buckets of maize on two acres of land. This was such a huge change and a great success for me that I did not want to stop at just this.”

In their FFS group, they learned how to access markets and how to seek out the best prices for their goods. Instead of relying on prices given by local middle men, who often use untrustworthy methods of weighing produce, and quote unfair prices, the group decided to use its mobile phone to call Sirari market in Kenya to find the real price for maize. Using this price, Zegera and two other men sold their crops collectively. They learned from their training that pooling their resources, they could attract bigger buyers, higher prices and minimize transportation costs. Zegra negotiated a fair price and sold 60 bags of 120kg each and earned $60 USD per bag – an increase of $34 per bag had he sold on his own!

t-story-4-1.jpgWith this money, he was able to finish building the house he had started a long time ago but was never able to finish. By bypassing the middleman, Zegera can earn at least three times as much for his goods by getting a fair price. Since that first sale to Sirari, Zegra sold many more bags of maize earning anywhere from $50-$80 depending on the season and demand.

In addition to finishing the construction their house, he purchased three cows and has enough food to feed his family. Our lives have improved for the better. Having improved skills and information on markets and market prices gives me the power to change our future. I am now seeking out business partnerships with other people looking to sell, and willing and able to share information about profitable opportunities. I will no longer sell locally unless there is high demand and an opportunity for a fair price.”