Being a key partner under the 3-Year Switch Africa Green (SAG) Project, The Kenya Agribusiness and Agroindustry Alliance (KAAA), through its 3 officials made a follow-up visit on 8th November to evaluate the effectiveness of the TOT session that had been conducted earlier to 2 MSMEs located in Nyandarua County; Shauri Women Group which undertakes potato processing for crisps and other by-products while the Nyaga Women Group which undertakes milk processing for yogurt. The two enterprises are self-help groups comprised of solely women.
During the process, several parameter were evaluated including finding out if the TOT exercise carried out previously had impacted the rest of the group members, establishing the progress made on the training modules against the Key Performance Indicators, determining whether the group had been able to implement the trainings they were introduced to with a focus on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) and the challenges the group was currently facing in their progress and share the way forward.
The agenda of the exercise for was outlined immediately after introductions by all the participants in the meeting who included 11 women and 3 KAAA officials. The Alliance invited the group leaders to share their experience on the agenda activities which are the measurable indicators and had initially formed the basis for the TOT session which had been conducted previously within Year 2016.
The TOT session had covered issues on financing, book & record keeping, linkages and establishing networks. Of importance, the session had also covered ground on the important element of business planning module which introduced several important elements such as product development, competitor assessment, marketing efficiency, process prioritization, resource efficiency and waste management.
Discussions for the day were centered on the Life-Cycle Thinking Approach and involved the focus of the groups’ activities from a holistic view capturing initial raw material intake stage through to processing and marketing of the final products. Under this approach, the KAAA officials counter checked all elements of SCP practices which involve economic, social and environmental elements.
The elements which equate to the key performance indicators are as follows
- Record and Book –Keeping
KAAA established that the groups had taken the initiative to keep accurate and reliable records not only for any activity they undertake but also of the expenses and revenues they transact. These were non-existent before the projects interventions through trainings conducted by KAAA.
The groups TOT’s were able to share the need to manage finances for efficient business management and sustainability with their group members. As a result, the groups had taken up the pro-active role of maintaining an up-to date financial cash-flow. The cash-flow enabled the groups to make informed decisions and plan for future business expansion. For instance, the potato processing group had been able to manage their monthly loan repayments in full amounts on a timely manner. Further to this, the group had made a conscious decision to increase the monthly repayment amount so that they can shorten the repayment period and seek other funding for future expansion
- Product Development
The group attested that the training on the need for product testing and certification was quite important. At the time of the visit, the group had successfully completed the product testing and certification procedure with KEBS. As a result of the training, the group had taken the initiative and purchased a weighing scale so that they could efficiently manage the final processed product. In fact, the group confirmed that they were guessing product packages based on visual estimate which was misleading. Labeling of final product was also being implemented by the group owing to the training. Earlier on, this was absent.
- Economic Empowerment, Inclusivity in relation to SCP Practices
Being a self-help group, this was an important element for the TOT session. KAAA established that the group (consisting of 11 women) had taken up self-development initiatives such as;
- Water harvesting with regards to SCP practices- The women had embarked on a group support initiative to purchase a 6000Litre capacity storage tank for each member. Currently, four from the eleven members have these water tanks with each costing approximately Kshs 55,000.
- Energy Use- The group had taken the initiative as a result of the training to deliberately transition from use of firewood for household energy use to the use of LPG gas. This was in recognition of the health problems associated with indoor air pollution, time management and environment conservation at the local level.
- Youth Inclusion- The group had taken the initiative to include young women into the group so as to ensure continuity of the group in future and also encourage youth within the locality to take value addition activities as a source of income. KAAA established that the group had included 2 more young women into the group after the training.
- Linkage development
As a result of the training conducted by KAAA, the group has been able to reach out to existing institutional support infrastructure such as Ol-Jororok ATC which has been quite helpful especially in research and development for enhancing processing capacity.
However in the course of the post evaluation exercise, KAAA realized that the group was facing certain challenges in the implementation of the trained elements and this derailed further progress. These challenges realized include;
- Raw material management
This challenge was defined by several aspects such as
- Inability to source high quality processing potatoes because some suppliers used recycled seed planting material which erodes the quality of the yields and use of certified seeds was a challenge that called for a wider stakeholder attention for potato processing quality to be enhanced.
- According to the group, price Volatility of raw potatoes vary due to seasonality in potato production from a low of Kshs 250 per package to a high of Kshs 700 per package. In case of high prices, the group is forced to halt the processing activities and this is not sustainable in the going concern.
- Processing Capability
This was highlighted by the group as the most predominant challenge. It was defined by
- Lack of modern technology equipment
They currently use rudimentary techniques to process their potatoes such as drying and frying. For instance, the potatoes slices are fried using firewood and the challenges is presented by the fact that controlling the heat to appropriate levels is quite difficult resulting to unevenly fried potato slices hence affecting the product consistency.
- Potato slice drying is carried out manually using towels to press and extract moisture content has proved to be very labor intensive to the extent that some members tend to abscond this exercise occasionally. In addition, the inconsistency and inappropriate moisture level contents have partly contributed to the inability of the groups’ product to penetrate national supermarkets such as Tuskys, Nakumatt or Naivas.
- Product Marketing & Distribution
This was constrained by three aspects
- Product coding
The group has been constrained by the rigorous and time consuming process in obtaining the code for their product. This had contributed to the limitation of access of the processed products to national supermarkets. As such, the group has been forced to sell their products through their social networks such as friends, neighbors and during events.
- Product Packaging-The group after having done a competitor assessment, recognized the need to ensure product packaging that would generate consumer appeal. Currently, the groups’ product is packaged in plain nylon papers. However, to extend the shelf-life and trade competitively at the national level, the group is constrained by the inability (finances & technical know-how) to develop appealing packaging.
- Product Quality Assurance-the group is constrained by the fact that they could no ensure the shelf-life of their processed products with reasonable certainty. In-deed, their products did not have a product expiry date which is very compromising especially considering this is a consumer product.
After the deliberations the Alliance came up with possible interventions and a way forward.
A response to the challenges that were identified through participatory process, participants envisaged the need to streamline the supply chain of raw potatoes addressing particular aspects such as:
- The need to have certified seed for potatoes so as to guarantee quality for processing needs
- The need to engage in farming of potatoes so as to counter the challenges of poor quality potato harvest from untrustworthy farmers
- The need to train and invest in potato post-harvest management so as to shield against price shocks and highly volatile prices due to seasonality in potato production
- To address processing challenges, adoption to modern machinery was observed to be a key solution in addressing product quality inconsistency. However, this calls for considerable capital investment but this would be re-assured by the groups’ commendable loan furnishing habit as confirmed in their records.
- The participants also agreed on the need for training on product packaging which would appeal to the customers and stand against the dominant competitive forces within the market. More technical training is necessary with regards to accurately determining the processed products’ shelf life as these constitutes consumable goods and quality assurance is crucial
- Considering the groups long term objectives, it was necessary to craft more training centered around business strategy development since the products are not unique and the environment is currently very competitive. This would be key to ensuring that the groups product have a possible chance of competing with industry leaders
- Possible ways of waste management were discussed and the group was further advised on how to conserve water used during the processing stages.
The Switch Africa Green overall objective is to support 6 African countries to achieve sustainable development by engaging in transition towards an inclusive green economy, based on sustainable consumption and production patterns, while generating growth, creating decent jobs and reducing poverty.