At only 28 years, Pauline Kawanja is one of the lead farmers and seed multipliers in the Tegemeo-2SCALE partnership. A member of Thiti Agribusiness Cluster, she is among 30 seed multipliers contracted by Tegemeo to bulk Biofortified Pearl millet seed for redistribution to smallholder farmers within Tharaka Nithi County.
So far, Pauline has multiplied pearl millet seed for two seasons, and practices crop rotation as advised by experts, to improve retention of soil nutrients. Growing up, she watched her parents engaging in agriculture, whereby they would produce crops for domestic consumption as well as for sale in the local market. The experience of seeing her parents pay for her school fees through the money they would get after selling farm produce motivated her to venture into agriculture as well. She narrates:
I was always fascinated at how much my parents spent too much time on the farm. At the end of the season, they would take the produce to the local market and the traders would purchase all of it. This is the money that they used for household upkeep, and for school fees for my siblings and I. The experience of seeing agriculture as a source of income for my parents motivated me to have a keen interest in agriculture as well. After my studies, I borrowed some money from my parents to lease a one-acre piece of land. I planted sorghum and harvested 19 bags-90 kilograms each, which I sold in the local market.
In subsequent seasons, Pauline planted various crops such as green grams and millet. It was until 2016 that she was introduced to Tegemeo Cereals Enterprise. While local traders would offtake her produce at KES 30 ($0.21) per kilogram, Tegemeo offered to offtake at a slightly higher price, but most importantly, was the discovery that she could get additional capacity building on how to improve her farming methods to increase the quality and quantities produced. She was among the youths trained by Tegemeo on Good Agricultural Practices, and Conservation Agriculture. After the training, farmers who adopted best practices in their farms during the following season were selected by Tegemeo to become community seed multipliers. Pauline was among them.
Growing seed and grain is quite different. A lot of attention is taken as we produce seed to ensure viability. Also, as a seed multiplier, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) usually visits my farm to inspect the crop, advise on how the crop is fairing, and if there is action needed from me to ensure I produce quality seed. I would say that it is slightly expensive to farm seed due to all the processes that we have to adhere to. However, it is a rewarding venture. While the price for grain is 30 KES ($0.21) per kilo, Tegemeo offtakes seed at an average price of KES 60 ($0.42). From the additional income, I have bought four acres of land, and generally, my livelihood and that of my family have significantly improved!
Tegemeo, through the partnership with 2SCALE, is promoting this concept of seed multiplication which is led by farmer groups located in different parts of Tharaka Nithi.
Currently, there are 30 seed multiplication groups in seven locations, consisting of about four farmers each. At the start of the intervention, 2SCALE supported smallholder farmers by providing them with certified pearl millet seeds from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO). This was aimed at initiating farmer-led solutions toward adequate quantities of bio-fortified pearl millet seeds.
After that, the farmers were responsible for planting and managing the crops until harvesting, with regular inspections by KEPHIS. In total 1,382 kilograms of biofortified pearl millet seeds were distributed. So far, over 4 tonnes of seed have been multiplied and sold to Tegemeo for redistribution to more farmers.