2017 April Newsletter
FS Takes Ideas and Innovation to Kenya, Africa
Source: Nate Pierce
Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya Africa on behalf of Gold Star FS. The purpose of this mission was to work with Kenyan farmers in establishing their own agricultural cooperatives. In this article I will give some background as to how the opportunity was created, the trip itself and the follow up opportunities for Gold Star FS.
In the late 1980’s Kenya was devastated by the HIV virus. Roughly 45% of all Kenyans had the fatal virus. This brought many non governmental organizations, charitable organizations and physicians from around the globe. One of those physicians was Dr. Joe Mamlin. Dr. Mamlin retired from the University of Indiana hospitals and devoted his life to the Kenyans. He started working with a hospital organization called AMPATH. In fighting HIV, Joe realized the root cause of many diseases in Kenya was from malnutrition and the lack of economic opportunities for the rural people of Kenya. Dr. Mamlin worked to create a “Safety Net” program as part of AMPATH. Safety Net’s purpose is to help rural Kenyans with food security, economic opportunities and access to health care.
Fast forward to 2012. DOW AgroSciences devoted themselves to providing a global humanitarian effort as part of their overall mission. DOW, headquartered in Indianapolis, came in contact with AMPATH through Dr. Mamlin, who is also from Indiana. DOW soon positioned a person in Kenya to assist AMPATH with the Safety Net program, with a focus on food security and improving yields. In 2016, Kirk and Cindy Moorhead established themselves for the year in Eldoret, Kenya. Kirk gained the trust of local farmers and demonstrated farming practices that improved yields. Cindy also gained favor with locals by teaching them about better animal husbandry with chickens (Ku-Ku’s) . Kirk and Cindy, along with the AMPATH Safety Net personnel, realized that the farmers were capable of achieving much more. They only needed the right structure and guidance to implement the improved practices.
DOW AgroSciences realized they were not the experts in cooperative development, leadership and management. They turned to FS for that. In February Leah Becherer from ConServ FS, and myself from Gold Star FS, traveled to Eldoret Kenya to meet with the farmers that were working to establish their cooperatives. After going through a brief training and meeting with the AMPATH people, all 15 of them, we quickly found ourselves
working with Kenyan farmers.
In Kenya about 50% of the people live in rural areas and farm. Most farm 1 to 5 acres mainly by hand. We witnessed farmers tilling their fields with a hoe or an ox and plow. Most farmers and their families live in a mud house with no running water or electricity. Most of the rural roads are dirt. Their main crops are white corn (maize), vegetables, bananas and sugar cane. They also raise cattle, sheep, goats and chickens. All of these animals are raised “free range”. It is common to see men walking their cattle herds (5-10 head) to grazing grounds.
Maize yields in Kenya can vary wildly from 20 bushel per acre to close to 200 bushel per acre. The key is quality inputs, management and water. The soils are highly productive. I observed many soil tests that resembled the test results we have here in Illinois. Farmers utilize fertilizer, improved genetics and pesticides when they can afford it. Poor quality inputs, sold by an inferior distribution system, often limits farmers yields and depresses their economic opportunities. Or worse, their family goes hungry due to not enough food grown on the farm. Today farmers are organizing under the direction of AMPATH. They are trying to gain buying leverage for inputs as well as create economic opportunities for their communities. The role of Leah and myself was to give them ideas, help set some direction and encourage them.
We centered our discussions around three cooperative objectives: Provide Quality Products; Provide Education & Advice from Trusted Suppliers and to have Profitability in the coop. Our discussions ranged from building a structure that would allow for purchasing quality fertilizer to discussing raising improved genetics of chickens as a source of cash flow. In all our discussions, we focused on soil testing. Not only as a benefit to the farmer but also a service that can be offered by the cooperative. The farmers are willing to invest in these services and start developing the business. Each cooperative group asked for continued guidance in developing their cooperatives.
Currently, Gold Star FS is mentoring the Mafuta Cooperative in western Kenya and working with AMPATH to provide cooperative leadership to all the groups we met. Mafuta is made up of 100+ members. The Mafuta Coop is currently soil testing their fields, which will generate enough money so they can buy a roof for their warehouse. The warehouse will allow them to store grain, buy and sell quality inputs, and ultimately employ several people. It will take time. But with time, hard work and leadership, this cooperative can change a community for generations to come. Being able to provide food security, economic development and healthcare; a coop can improve the lives of its members.
It is not a question of if I will go back, it is a matter of when. The people of Kenya are the most loving people I have ever encountered. It is true; farmers are farmers, despite where they are in the world. All are focused on raising food to feed a growing world. The cooperative system that has benefited American agriculture and cooperatives will benefit African agriculture too.
As Gold Star FS continues to work with the Mafuta Cooperative and other coops in Kenya, look for updates in our newsletter.
New Monthly Statements
The Gold Star main office will be going through a rather large software conversion on April 1, 2017. The main item that our customers will see changed is their monthly statement. There will be flyers in March’s statement that covers the key elements of the new statement. Additionally, there will be a flyer mailed with the new statement for the April activity. This flyer will give an example of a new statement along with explanations of each section so you can find your way around the statement. There will also be a walk-through video on our website.
Gold Star FS carries a full-line of Premium Engine Oils and Heavy-Duty Lubricants for anything from the family car to the heavy duty diesel engine? Gold Star FS is proud to offer these premium quality lubricants, most of which are made at the state of the art FS Lubricant Manufacturing Plant in Council Bluffs, IA. All of our lubricants are API tested and certified to meet or exceed OEM specifications and will satisfy all engine manufacturer warranty requirements. FS Lubricants come in package sizes from quarts to bulk. Stop in at one of our locations or call to find out more about the FS line of lubricants.
Did you know?
Gold Star FS has been in the turf business for over 15 years? Through our turf business, River City Turf & Ornamental, we are able to offer a full line of grass seeds, lawn fertilizers and lawn chemicals at competitive prices. Stop by any of our locations to get what you need to keep your lawn green and healthy all season long.