Nearly every day, in the local media, one hears about some appeals made by our leaders to farmers to form groups. They are viewed as some of the best means to reduce poverty.
Farmers growing a similar crop like coffee or beans can form a registered group with elected leaders and set guidelines to follow.
Many of them have been formed and can be referred to as saving and credit cooperatives or associations or just farmer groups.
But what should the farmers expect from joining the groups? When different individuals growing a crop such as coffee, watermelons, or passion fruit, in a village or a sub-county assemble, they exchange views on the challenges they face, the best practices for maximising output, and a whole range of issues regarding their economic activity.
The groups should be forums for individual farmers to talk about the difficulties they face like crop diseases, barriers to accessing loans, or lack of storage facilities.
They should be forums for exchanging ideas and sharing experiences. Their leaders should once in a while invite experts like agriculture officers to talk to the groups about how to fight crop diseases or how to apply fertilisers.
Since they are in groups it is much easier for them to assemble in their usual venues to be addressed by experts from financial institutions, inputs providers, marketing agencies and public health workers promoting household hygiene and good post-harvest practices.
A farmers’ group is expected to store its produce in big quantities and to negotiate the best selling prices.
Farmers groups can pool savings and buy good quality seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, and farming equipment like hoes, wheelbarrows, and watering cans in bulk and therefore cheaply.
Members can arrange such activities as visiting fellow farmers and pointing out what is well done and what is poorly done and learning from one another.
Farmers groups should as much as possible avoid political, tribal, or religious differences.
A farmers’ group should not be formed solely to attract funds from a political leader or organisation.
Nor should it appear to be formed by members of a single religion, tribe, or political party.