Originally published on November 14, 2016.
The unforgiving heat and unhospitable terrain well describes Kaunguni town, which resides at the foot of Chyulu hills in Makueni county. The dried cowpeas on the dry vast lands depict that the area has barely received any rainfall for the past few months. Adding to this, the sparsely populated town is largely covered by huge pumice rocks, barely supporting any form of farming. Here, residents focus on livestock farming to earn themselves a coin. As a way of interaction and support to each other, some farmers in Kaunguni came together to form a self-help group called Kyeni Kya Jasho. Members from the “merry-go round” group each contributed a certain amount to the group on a weekly basis and its members took turns to be awarded with the cumulative amount. This however, was not sustainable as there was no money left with the group after each month.
n July 2015, through the assistance of Kenya Semi-Arid Livestock Enhancement Support (K-SALES) - a U.S. Department of Agriculture funded project implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development- Kyeni Kya Jasho saw the need to register as a co-operative. The self-help group convinced eight other groups to join them in this business venture. Barely two months later, the group formed and registered Kaunguni Jasho Livestock Marketing Co-operative under the Cooperatives Act with the main aim of livestock trading. Through K-SALES, the cooperative received training on business plan development, cooperative management and marketing, financial literacy, leadership and governance.
Kaunguni Jasho Livestock Marketing Co-operative popularly known as ‘Kaunguni Jasho’ currently has a membership base of 150 members. The cooperatives’ initial capital was mobilized from the sale of shares at a value of Kshs. 500 per share, with a maximum of 10 shares and a registration fee of Kshs. 1,000 per member. In addition to the membership fee, each member was required to give three goats to serve as a capital base for the cooperative. For sustainability, each member contributes Kshs.100 per month. Another source of income is from the sales commissions from the livestock sold charged at Kshs. 500 per cow and Kshs. 100 per goat sold. The members from the cooperatives have a chance to participate and even earn an extra coin by being part of the livestock marketing team during marketing days.
For transparency and accountability, a cooperative management team was set up that comprised of a management committee, a marketing subcommittee and supervisory committee. Since its inception, these teams have embraced good leadership and governance practices that continue to ensure the steady growth of the cooperative. In pursuant of Kaunguni Jasho’s main objective of ‘Livestock trading,’ the management team organizes the bulking and selling of livestock on Mondays and Fridays at Makindu and Kibwezi market respectively. The cooperative currently sells an average of 50 goats and 2 cows per week that translates to a weekly sale value of 200,000 Kenya shillings. The cooperative opened an office at Kaunguni town during the cooperatives’ launch in July 2016.
“We have realized that livestock trade is indeed beneficial. I wait patiently for my share after the monthly sales”, she exclaims. The rotational participation in marketing of livestock has created confidence and trust among the members.
Recently, Mr. John Mailu, an officer from Sidian Bank-Kibwezi branch visited the cooperative to open new accounts for the members following the increased income from the weekly sales.
During the cooperatives’ launch this year, the area Member of the County Assembly, Mr. John Mwenze could not hide his joy while stating, “If this is a livestock cooperative being launched today here in Kaunguni, then I believe it is possible to practice livestock trading anywhere.”
The cooperative plans to expand their business and venture in slaughtering the livestock for meat. They have plans to slaughter their livestock at Emali Slaughter house, about 60 kms away, and market the meat in Bama Market, Nairobi this coming year.