Thursday, June 26, 2014

Multifunctional farms, in rich countries only?

Lately, I went to visit a poultry farm a bit off Nairobi, to get inspired for my and my friend's poultry project. It was an impressive poultry farm, that was producing improved local chicken, quails, Guinea fowl, parrots, ducks and many others. Next to the amazingly spacious cages fulls of birds, the farm has also an impressive breeding space, with huge incubators and cages to keep chicks warm. An impressive farm, optimizing poultry production.

Guinea fowl
Next to the meat and egg business, the farm sells chicks and fertilized eggs from all the birds they have. What i really learned from them, is that consistency is key to Kenyan market (i.e. being able to always supply). As they cannot consistently sell Guinea fowl meat, they prefer to not sell, but wait until they can reach consistency before entering market : a smart way to not loose the market before one has penetrated it.
A just born chicken, still in the incubator
But what impressed me most about Ben, the farmer/owner of the farm was his vision of a multifunctional farm, just like those amazing farm i was visiting in the Netherlands during my PhD. He is dreaming of a farm where every day school classes are coming to learn about farming. And he already host regularly hosts classes. He wants to show young people that farming is not a second choice in life, it can be a very smart and good business.

one of the several incubators
But he has even bigger dreams, he hopes to have a small conference center and a camping so that people from Nairobi can enjoy not only his good meat but also the tremendously nice landscape he is living in and he co-creates.

The tremendously nice landscape just some kilometer away from Nairobi

Ben reminded me a lot of Jan Huijgen, the farmer who took up the initiative to get some funding to fund my PhD : a man with the vision to reconnect cities to their food. And as i have just learned, this is not just a European vision, it is also emerging in Africa...

Jan Huijgen
 Wanna make your own intercontinental comparison? Find here Jan's blog

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Let's walk the talk ! Bringing Kuroiler chicken to the Kenyan market

Recently I have reported from a new chicken breed, Kuroiler,  that can potentially boost the whole Kenyan poultry sector!

Not later as yesterday, KARI the agricultural extension service from Kenya, announced that they are overwhelmed with the demand for improved local chicken, also know as KARI kinyeji chicken. No order will be taken until February.

A friend and myself, have decided to walk the talk and have just invested in an incubator, and in two weeks from now we will be able to supply the market with Kuroiler chicks, the improved local chicken from Uganda, which we believe has even better features than the KARI breed. We hope to reach consistency of supply within the next two months, implying that we will be able to provide the market with about 1000 chicks weekly.

So check out new blog/website and help us to spread the word!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Making geo-information available for smallholders through business

Yesterday, I was invited to Safari park Hotel for a match making event on how to use Geo-information, mainly from satellite images for business purpose in Africa and reach out to the farmers. The meeting brought together NGOs, insurances, banks, farmers' organization, mobile payment companies or research institutions. It was organized by Dutch space office and agri-pro focus.

The meeting will followed by a call for implementing projects in selected countries that will allow to link-up the last mile, i.e. bring the Geo-information to the smallholders in the form of a business idea.

The call will contain some hard core criteria, such as having a Dutch partner, having private sector partners (i.e. having a business model) or using satellite images. However, there are a bunch of other outcome criterias, such as how many smallholders need to reach out is yet unclear. A dialogue between donor and partners has started to come up with smart indicators, and hopefully will be flexible and part of a negotiation.You can find more information about the up-coming call here.

ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute) was prominent guest, I was proud to represent and to present in the plenary session. We have been widely recognized for our work on the index based livestock insurances (IBLI).

The insurance uses satellite images to derive NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) and livestock mortality data to create an index. When the index indicates a drought, payments are done to pastoralists regardless the livestock has died or not.

First informal discussion took place with some of the partners to enhance the efficiency and the reach out of the insurance. There is definitely scope to follow-up.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The fridge revolution : or how the fridge is changing the game in value chains

This week end, it was Madaraka day, the day commemorates the day that Kenya attained internal self-rule in 1963, preceding full independence from the United Kingdom. The whole week end was full of opposition rallies and pro-government event in Nairobi. The great occasion stay in a safe area and read. The latest version of the economist has a very good article about the fridge. I was expecting an article showing how life of poor people can change with a fridge. But the article went much further, showing how the whole value chains are changing with the up-coming of fridge. It will not only make food safer, and allow people to get cheaper food, but it will also lead to a completely new food demand.
(Taken from the Economist)
I am working for the value chain program of the CGIAR, we hope to increase livestock and fish products for and by the poor, for example the dairy sector. So somehow we expect the poor to lift themselves out of poverty thanks improved diets and through the sale of livestock products, i.e. the might reach the level where they can afford a fridge. If they do, it might have a deep impact on the value chain we try to improve. Are we running the risk that our work become out-dated or not fitting the context anymore when the poor get richer? or is it just part of a logical pathway to improved chains? I guess these are questions I will keep asking myself continuing my work.

This week end, i understood : the real revolution is not coming from the opposition party, it is it much more silent, it is the upcoming of the fridge!