Humanly this mission was very rewarding, it was my first mission in Africa and I thought it was important to live this kind of experience. I had the opportunity to go to Brazil with AGPM  a few years ago and I met in Nairobi the standards of capitals of Latin America. It is now a key crossroads in East Africa, particularly in the Anglo-Saxon world. We see that Kenya is a country on the move. And even if there are some limiting factors, people are moving forward.
Under a Fert / AGPM partnership to conduct an exploratory mission in Kenya, it’s as a board member that I was offered to represent the AGPM for this mission.
I was interested to participate in this mission to define how we could, we, French farmers, bring added value in agricultural development of Kenyan producers. With distance now [the mission took place in July 2013], I can say that this mission has met my expectations and the goals for this exploratory phase have been achieved.
What do you think now of this Kenyan cereal industry?
This is an industry that has a huge potential for development; Kenyans are now experiencing chronic deficit production. Maize is the staple food in Kenya and everyone grows at least a little. But by organizing farmers along the value chain in terms of supply, technical support, marketing, this might be possible to reach a balanced situation. Everyone makes the same diagnosis (producers, processors, financiers, state… ): will is lacking, or rather the method to work together. By bulking their productions, producers weigh more on the market, and might eliminate intermediaries. With new technologies, including mobile phoning, steps can be shortened to achieve it.
Our contactin Kenya, CGA , has the desire to help producers to organize themselves. It accompanies them so they can gather. Our added-value as French farmers could be to provide methodological support to CGA and to assist it in the process of organizing the producers.
Originally, CGA was a union of ‘white settlers’. However, CGA has not remained this former elite union and is opened to other producers. In this former British colony, the high administration is less active and there is more entrepreneurial freedom. I was particularly astonished struck by the pragmatism of the actors and their capacity for initiative. So, working on medium scale farms, CGA is aware that it can organize the cereal value chain by professionalizing producers. These medium scale farms represent for them the good level which can then pull the entire industry .
Do you consider Fert mobilizing of French professionals as a relevant approach today?
This mobilization is relevant for the complementarities of the actors involved in that mission: in our case, we had a consultant / facilitator who had a good experience in Africa, a good network, an address book on the spot; the technical assistant Fert who brought his mastery of the background and expertise of Fert’s approach and its implementation in the South; and I, who has brought the vision of a French professional maize producer and representative of an important farmers’organization. In this sense, I was able to give testimony about the construction of our organizations in France. Not to present them as a perfect model, but because it’s interesting to discuss our needs, our challenges and to share our experience and the solutions we have found. I shared also advices from the point of view of a farmers’ organization representative, and also my political vision of world balances global interdependencies and so that we can build something together. Having an elected farmer in such a mission brings credibility to the exchange. The Technical Assistant from Fert and elected farmer really form a complementary duo .
I think that the idea of mobilizing our commodity association (AGPM) in this type of project I think is a good approach, it is particularly relevant for Fert, an association that has its origins in particular the history of these cereal organizations in France. In addition, this is a way for Fert to remain connected to cereal’s industry organizations in France, this is a crucial point as the benefits of these connections are real.
1) General association of maize producers (France)
2) Cereal Growers Association (Kenya)