Better Globe Forestry farmers group formation
Better Globe Forestry has embarked on forming farmer groups with our farmers programs both in Seven Forks (Kenya) and Dokolo (Uganda). These are groups with a similar structure as Community Based Organizations (CBOs) recognized by the government: They have the same leadership structures, a constitution highlighting the purpose of the group, and periodic timed meetings. The group members are issued a personalized Better Globe Forestry certificate, after observation of the group activities and progress. The most vibrant groups will be facilitated to acquire a legally recognized certificate and hence become an official CBO.
This is achieved through a team which consists of farmers group that works closely with the agroforestry agents and Community Representatives (CRs), which in turn triggers activities within the groups, and tracks/manages the data of the farmer groups.
Mukau growersPhoto courtesy: Better Globe Forestry
Why work with Better Globe Forestry groups?
- To break the barrier of registering groups legally as CBOs, which was caused by several challenges like understanding the benefits, and paying for the registration including related traveling costs
- In adherence with FSC requirements
- In adherence with requirements to have access to carbon compensation programs
- To increase cost effectiveness and efficiency of our partner farmers program (trainings done in groups rather than on individual farms, records are obtained from groups rather than from an individual CRs etc.)
- To promote the feeling of ownership of the program by farmers, which has a positive influence on the way they take care of the trees
- To engage farmers in production of seedlings within the groups and hence give financial benefits to the farmers.
- Ease of logistical management at the time of harvesting
- Possibly as a strategy to increase synergy with the FSA (micro-finance)
The implementation started in 2019 and big strides were made in registration of farmers groups with the government. During this period a lot of activities were achieved through groups, namely:
- Financial benefits/Table banking
- Contracting and Sensitization
All our farmers trainings are currently conducted through individual groups, both registered and otherwise. It’s through the groups that we have been able to train 78% of our farmers on soil and water conservation measures. Out of this number, 50% have implemented the measures by constructing terraces, repairing existing ones, digging cut-off drains, practicing conservation agriculture, and the results are impressive. As Kyoa Ndewa Kimele from Ngondini Village, Ithumbi sublocation attests, her farm has improved in crop production due to reduced soil erosion, increased water infiltration and retention, thus ensuring crops get a continuous water and minerals supply for a longer period.
Many other trainings are conducted through groups e.g. planting and seedling management, pruning, income-generating activities, land use planning, farm protection and fencing. As a group, the farmers get to understand better the importance of the program, and the benefits they will derive from tree planting.
Training mukau growers on pruning techniquesPhoto courtesy: Better Globe Forestry
Financial benefits for our partner farmers
- Better Globe Forestry has partnered with K-Rep Fedha Services Ltd. (KFS) to establish village banks or Financial Services Associations (FSAs) in its areas of operations.
- During trainings, the farmers are given facilitation fees for attending. This money is paid after the training to the group treasurer and the groups use this money as seed capital for table banking services. Many groups have initiated “merry go rounds” within the group where individual members, each in turn, can borrow this money and return it with interest. They also use this money in the village banks thereby enabling them to borrow, with members within the group acting as guarantors.
The overall implication is our farmers groups can borrow to pay school fees for their children, start businesses, address emergencies, purchase farm inputs, and engage in income-generating activities e.g. goat rearing and beekeeping. This has empowered them financially and reduced dependence on charity organizations and government institutions.
Contracting and sensitization
Currently all of our farmers are contracted digitally. Once contracted, they immediately form a group.
One salient benefit of groups is social fencing. When all the members in a group actively plant seedlings, they collectively help each other in protecting their farms from browsing by goats.
Through the farmers groups, the farmers are also trained how to provide tree data on a monthly basis, with the group secretary keeping the records for reference. Our teams on the ground collect the data from the leaders and update the records accordingly.
Well laid terraces on a farm in Seven Forks, KenyaPhoto courtesy: Better Globe Forestry
The company initiated a group competition where the best performing groups are awarded based on an agreed upon criteria, key among them being tree survival. The competition is aimed at encouraging good seedling protection and maintenance, encouraging cohesion and teamwork among the members, motivating other farmers to join the program, and easing administration of trainings to the farmers.
The exercise of group formation involves a lot of training and monitoring from our agroforestry agents, farmer group formation officers, and site managers. A farmer group coordination manager based at the head office in Nairobi oversees and ensures that groups are registered and issued with BGF certificates and facilitated to get government certification.
In Uganda, our partner YICAFA, together with community representatives and local/town councils, play a critical role in processing the documentation for registration of the groups by government agencies.
Groups play an integral role in Better Globe Forestry farmers management, administration of trainings, collection of data on seedling survival, and in preparation of harvesting plans when trees reach maturity. Good progress is being made in bringing and making all farmers join groups and continuous efforts are put towards it.
Mukau growers in Seven Forks, Kenya being trained how to lay terracesPhoto courtesy: Better Globe Forestry