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Agribusiness Professor Trains Farmers in Kenya and Malawi through Farmer to Farmer Program
Professor Zacch Olorunnipa (3rd from left) poses for a photo with Muguna Farmers’ Cooperative Society participants in the Farmer-to-Farmer Program in Kenya, Africa.

October 11, 2012

– Zacch Olorunnipa, an agribusiness professor in Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) College of Agricultural and Food Sciences, recently returned from participating in two successful volunteer experiences that provided training for farmer cooperatives in Kenya and Malawi (Africa) through the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer program (FTF).

Olorunnipa was recruited and sponsored by CNFA (formerly known as Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs) to conduct on-site training for farmers in the two countries regarding how to create enabling environments for sustainable business practices for income and profitability enhancement.

The assignment in Kenya was designed for the Muguna Farmers’ Cooperative Society, Ltd.  (MFCS).  MFCS has 1,463 registered members and is based in the central rural area of Kenya.  Coffee has traditionally been the major enterprise produced by members of MFCS; however, enterprise diversification has become inevitable due to low income from coffee in recent times.  A variety of agricultural practices including growing crops (passion fruits, tomatoes and maize/corn), bee keeping and dairy production have become integrated into the mix of enterprises practiced by the farmers in MFCS.

The members of the MFCS were trained in farm business management (business planning, cost/benefit analysis, budgeting and business skills); market development; farm record keeping and basic financial management.  A pre-training questionnaire to ascertain their backgrounds and training needs showed that at least 52 percent of the 40 farmers were not keeping any form of records because they did not know the value of such records.  By the end of the training, all the participants (100 percent) indicated they knew the value of business record keeping and promised to start keeping records immediately in their business.

In Malawi, the target audience of the training was the Goliati Tomato Processing Cooperative, Ltd. (GTPC), which is located approximately 19 miles south of the Thyolo district in Goliati, Malawi. The organization has about 71 members of which 31 (23 men and eight women) participated in the training.  Most of the farmers in Goliati grow fruits and vegetables, and they were interested in processing tomatoes into products such as jams, sauce, juice or puree. Because the processing facility is still under construction, the members had a goal to improve their economic status through training in business management skills, basic financial accounting and recordkeeping. To accomplish this goal, the group recruited Olorunnipa as a volunteer to work with GTPC.

The training was a little more challenging than the one in Kenya as more than 95 percent of the trainees in Malawi did not speak English.  CNFA hired a translator who translated the lessons from English to Chichewa – the local language of the trainees. The members were trained on how to keep business journals to track and record all business activities and the associated costs and revenues.  They were shown how such information can be used to construct financial documents such as the balance sheet statement, income statement cash flow budget, etc.  Additionally, the members were taught simple procedures for analyzing these statements to aid business decisions.  Business jargon (such as costs, revenues, net income/ profit, receipts, vouchers, invoices, pay slips, quotations, wages, salaries, taxes, etc.) was thoroughly explained with examples and illustrations.  Ample exercises were given to the members to reinforce the concepts taught.  They were encouraged to use data and information relevant to their own farm business experience to do the assigned work as much as possible.  The estimated financial impact of the training is about $1,100 increase in profit per farmer.

About the overall experience, Olorunnipa said, “I was glad to have the opportunity to impart valuable information that impacts the ability of the farmers to increase income, improve their quality of life and to become contributors to national development.” 

Volunteer assignments support FAMU’s efforts to offer education through diverse means and methods to an international audience.  According to Olorunnipa, both FAMU and CAFS have the potential to recruit more international students to pursue a degree in agricultural and food sciences as well as other fields. 

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