JEKAM – An Agri-Entrepreneur Success Story
With mentoring and support provided by the Foundation, Jesse Kamutu is emerging as the dynamo behind an agri-enterprise in a remote region of Kenya now benefiting hundreds of local farmers
Jesse Kamutu is the enthusiastic rural entrepreneur behind JEKAM – a one-stop shop for farmers which is transforming the livelihoods of resource-poor smallholders in the remote region of Nyandarua County in Kenya. Once, Jesse’s primary occupation was growing potatoes for consumption purposes, but over the past three years, with the support of Syngenta Foundation East Africa (SFEA), he has been running the Farmers’ Hub (FH) wittily entitled JEKAM – a title coined from the initial letters of his names. He’s also gaining a deserved reputation as a respected seed potato producer.
Jesse’s latent entrepreneurial abilities were noticed and nurtured through training provided by SFEA in professional and commercial seed production techniques. With the additional provision of planting materials and the necessary initial infrastructure, Jesse was launched on his journey to success. This agri-entrepreneur now cultivates two main varieties of potato seed with the potential for enhanced yields – Shangi and Wanjiku – which he has developed with generation one potato seeds produced from apical cuttings.
Meanwhile, JEKAM has become an essential focal point for hundreds of farmers in a region with more than its share of agricultural challenges. Catherine Ndumbi, Agriservices lead at SFEA, highlights how this enterprise, based on the Farmer’s Hub business model, can benefit farmers: “JEKAM provides local farmers with access to high-quality inputs, finance, insurance, mechanization, and market connections through SFEA mentorship,” she says.
Picture 1 Farmer Hub model
Becoming a trusted supplier of high-quality seed is an important part of Jesse’s reputation as an agri-entrepreneur. JEKAM is registered with KEPHIS, the Kenyan certifying body which ensures seeds reach the required quality standards for commercial production and distribution. Jesse has also developed strong partnerships with institutions such as the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and the International Potato Center (CIP).
An important aspect of Jesse’s work is forging links with suppliers of agricultural inputs such as crop-protection products and fertilizers. This leads to the sort of steady and effective supply chains which underpin the ability of an FH to provide smallholders with access to time- and labour-saving farm machinery and post-harvest-handling equipment, as well as advice on crops and market information.
Importantly, Jesse recognizes that his cultivation of links with various business, commercial, and institutional partnerships provide a valuable indicator of future success since they “ensure an exchange of knowledge and allow me to stay up to date with potato cultivation advances.”
SFEA’s recognition of Jesse’s potential and subsequent support have afforded him the opportunity to scale up his farming operations. He has honed his seed production skills, established strong partnerships within the potato industry, and become the manager of a thriving one-stop shop for agricultural supplies and information exchange. That’s quite the success story.