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Since she joined the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA) in Wageningen as Senior Technical Advisor Agribusiness and Value Chains in December 2016, Sabdiyo Dido has been involved in the implementation of one of the organisation’s key objectives. Together with her CTA colleagues she is working to facilitate smallholder farmers and agri-businesses develop effective and competitive agribusiness skills and capacities so that they can achieve better incomes and wellbeing.
Sabdiyo Dido is an agribusiness specialist. In her home country Kenya she was closely involved in the livestock sector and with services that bring the products of small-scale cattle, goat and camel farmers to market. These value chains are often dominated by middlemen who take advantage of the fact that pastoralists are often desperate to sell at any price because they need money to meet urgent household needs.
Before joining CTA, Sabdiyo was SNV–Netherlands Development Organisation’s global manager for a women’s agribusiness project in Kenya and Vietnam. Her experience of working with this international Dutch development organisation in various capacities not only increased her commitment to sustainable development but also gave her practical insights into the poverty experienced by many potentially business orientated small-scale women farmers.
Her efforts to improve the marketing capacity of these women involved providing insights into opportunities available within value chains, strengthening market linkages and networks and helping them access the resources they needed to be fully competitive. In Eastern Africa small-scale women farmers have an ill-defined legal status when it comes to property rights. Farms and livestock are in the name of the male head of household and this means that – officially – women have no capital to offer as security if they need loans to finance their farming operations. Societal norms also dictate that women have no right to decide what happens to the money they earn from marketing their products.
Improving the economic capacities of women farmers and making sure their experience is taken into account in decisions affecting income and household security was an important part of Sabdiyo Dido work at SNV. The positive results of the financial training provided in this context included a growing number of small-scale women farmers deciding to set up their own savings and credit schemes and – with the support of the Kenyan Government – the establishment of the Women’s Enterprise Fund which makes it possible for women to borrow at affordable rates. Changes in land tenure, value chain structures and ‘other social barriers’, however, are still needed if the potential of women farmers to supply nutritious, healthy and affordable foods to local markets in East and Southern Africa is to be fully realised.
The dairy sector in Eastern Africa was also Sabdiyo’s particular responsibility. Here she focused on identifying innovations that could increase milk yields, reduce milk losses and improve the price of milk for small-scale cattle farmers (three-six cows) and medium-sized livestock holders (up to 50). She saw meeting market demand for affordable milk proteins through processing, drying and powdering as a realistic and innovative business opportunity especially if solar energy could be used in areas where milk was being produced. Solar energy and energy generated in other ecological ways, for example, from cattle manure, is being increasingly used by small-scale cooperatives to chill, pasteurise, package and sell their members’ milk at prices consumers can afford.
Climate change is having a critical effect on the dairy and extensive livestock industry in Eastern and Southern Africa and CTA is currently implementing a series of projects relevant to climate risk mitigation. These include crop and livestock insurance and access to markets as well as finance for smallholder farmers and pastoralists. Support is being given to livestock farmers in dry areas who have switched to small stock (sheep and goats) to enable them to access markets for their milk and processed products. Efforts are also being made to provide livestock and arable farmers with weather information that can be accessed via mobile phones, information that will help them decide what crops, vegetables and forage would be best to plant. Farmers can also find real-time information about prices and demand via their mobile phones and this can help them plan their sales.
Information about and the communication of the new insights of agricultural research is still inadequate. There is also a need to improve the exchange of experience between development-orientated agencies. These problems have been accentuated by the recent cutbacks in extension services in many Eastern and Southern African countries. As Sabdiyo settles into her work at CTA she faces the challenge of designing programmes that will enable CTA to ensure that value chain actors and regulators support smallholder farmers and help them access the knowledge and skills needed to turn their agricultural activities into sustainable and profitable business ventures.