Cluster farming is the magic bullet with the capacity to pull smallholder farmers from recurrent poverty because it creates profit by merging several farms into a solid entrepreneurial group that enjoys the benefits of scale.
An expert in cluster farming, Patrick Kinyanjui said the farming model creates profit for the smallholder farmers by increasing their supplies to markets and it gives them a voice to get better bargains for their produce.
Speaking during an interview with KNA, Kinyanjui said cluster farming amalgamates multiple individual farms located close together and enables owners decide on one particular crop to plant in order to amplify their production and access supply contracts with big hotels or supermarkets.
He said with the increasing urbanized population, more opportunities were emerging for vegetable farmers to supply various business enterprises, but added those buyers require huge amounts and constant supplies, which locks out individual smallholder farmers.
Kinyanjui said since smallholder farmers lack the capacity of reliability because of their meagre production and added their only solution of competing in the supply market chains was by forming clusters.
He gave an example of poultry farmers who have been complaining of being phased out of the market by cheaper imported eggs, and said their only remedy to beat the market forces was through cluster farming that enables them to produce more and share profits and loses equitably.
“An individual farmer who keeps 500 birds incurs a number of hidden costs such as transportation of feeds but if they are in a group of twenty they are likely to attract a feeds supplier at no transportation cost. And retailers are likely to buy at the farm gate since they are assured of constant supply,’’ he said.
He added that cluster farming or one crop farming per area was a popular concept in Asian countries, which local farmers should emulate so as to remain relevant in the spiral supply chains.
By Veronica Bosibori