23 Mar

Walking into the lobby of Safari Park hotel one would easily mistake it for a mini Agricultural show ground but to my surprise it was the 3rd Networking event of Farmers. Here different farmers’ associations groups and different agricultural projects meet once every year to share their experiences and showcase their products on a neutral platform. The multi-stakeholder network brings together different institutions, farmers under the umbrella body of Agri-Pro Focus. Agri-Pro Focus a Dutch based network operates both at a Dutch-based level and at a developing country level as Agri-Hubs.

A unique way to market their produce thus the network aims to promote entrepreneurship and connecting producers with national and international market using an online platform.  It is not business as usual for Agri-Pro Focus members who aim to both open up market potential for business in developing countries, as well as meet with the challenge of sustainably feeding 9 billion people by 2050

There are 13 hubs in Africa and One hub in Indonesia. The network encourages farmer entrepreneurship and enhanced Agribusiness enterprises. They offer business facilitation, joint action, debate and Learning and an online platform to exchange ideas.

Speaking at the Networking event, Dutch Embassy representative, Dr. Melle Leenstra of the Food Security Program said “We want to invest in Kenya to address food security, we see a potential to earn money in Kenya”. Adding that it was paramount to invest in Agriculture Entrepreneurship for small holder farmers.

Agri-Pro Focus was started in June 2005 by the Dutch Development Cooperation to get back the agenda of farming and financing of farmers through RABU Bank. Here a network of 7 farmers was started and grew to 90 before spreading to other parts of the continent. Agricultural Engineer, Hedwig Bruggeman took the helm of this institution in 2009 having worked on various projects in Africa. Hedwig is very passionate about farming having grown up in a farm herself. Hedwig, Managing Director of Agri-Pro Focus says the network is able to connect the farmer to the market place for all Africa in selling the produce. Adding “We have an online platform anyone interested in agriculture should join”.

Dr. Arnette van Andel is the Agri-Pro Focus Network Facilitator of Kenya, Mali and Niger says “The real strength of this network is providing services to its members”. The network organizes events and activities for its members with an objective to promote farmers and enhance food security. “We link them together, facilitate the farmers using an online platform” Dr. Andel says. The network is not limited only to farmers but also open to farmer organizations, banks Nongovernmental organizations and governments.

Access to finance, climate change and accessing credit is a big challenge facing many farmers. Currently the Network is hosted by HIVOS since they rotate among their different network members. As a Network facilitator Dr. Andel is able to link business from Dutch to different networks in Africa. This unique network is able to link farmers on a digital platform from Africa to the Netherlands through a site that they are able to subscribe. A network that is able to not only link the farmers but also an eye opener for farmers’ new market. I am looking forward to another season of networking.

 by Winnie Kamau


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