Interview: Geoffrey Nyamota on the 4S@Scale project in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania

In three East African countries the multinational coffee trader Ecom and the NGO Hivos are collaborating in the 4S@Scale project. It is one of the PPPs supported by Facility for Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Food Security (FDOV) of the Dutch government. The project’s overall objective is to improve the livelihoods of 90,000 smallholder coffee farmers in East Africa using integrated farming systems.

PPPLab’s Marleen Brouwer talked to Geoffrey Nyamota, who is the programme manager of the Sustainable and Secure Smallholder Systems at Scale project (4S@Scale), based in Nairobi.

Could you tell me a bit more about the project?

4S@Scale is a partnership between the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hivos, Ecom and biogas implementing agencies in the three countries where the project is active: Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The main sector on which the project focuses is coffee. We aim at installing productive, sustainable coffee farming systems, and therefore the project intensifies and expands ongoing farmer support in Good Agricultural Practices and climate adaptation.

In this regard, one of the interesting features of 4S@Scale is the use of bio-slurry in the production system of coffee. The project will install bio-digesters which turn cow dung and urine into fertilizer (for the coffee plants, but also for the grass eaten by cows) and into fuel for cooking stoves.

Furthermore, the project works in two other sectors with great potential in the region: dairy and horticulture. Diversification into either dairy or horticulture will enhance the income earning capacity of the coffee farmers. We put an extra focus on females and next generation farmers: the project will ensure that at least half of the participants are women and/or young people. The project will give priority to economic activities that will help these target groups generate independent incomes.

What are the roles of Hivos and Ecom within the partnership?

Hivos is the fund manager besides taking a lead in gender, youth, and monitoring and evaluation. Hivos also leads the partners in  engaging local and national governments who are the custodians of farmers. The county governments perform a key role of providing infrastructure for better business. The marketing companies of Ecom train promoter farmers who in return train neighbouring farmers on Good Agricultural Practices, and integrating bio-slurry into the whole farm system. The project aims to train 1,800 promotor farmers in the three project countries. The impact of these trainings is even bigger, since promoter farmers are encouraged to each train 50 neighbouring farmers. Ecom provides a credit facility to farmers working directly with her sister companies in the three countries. At the end of one or two years, the credit has to be repaid to Ecom through coffee sales.

Why are Hivos and Ecom cooperating in East Africa?

Hivos maintains a strong, good working relationship with Ecom. In East Africa we have been working together as partners since five years. This history has helped us to better understand each other’s interests. We are happy with the marketing component of Ecom. In Kenya this is the SMS system: Sustainable Management Services. SMS is Ecom’s vehicle to support farmers and address issues of agricultural degradation. Its mission is to improve the economic, social, environmental and health conditions of coffee growers and their families. The model wants to improve coffee supply chains through direct involvement and year-round provision of services to producers.

To address any operational issues among partners, while addressing farmers’ challenges, the project operates in multi-stakeholder collaborations and works with ngo’s like Hivos. Therefore within the partnership we have regular meetings together, at the implementation level as well as the strategic level. Hivos is seen as a useful and reliable partner for Ecom, because of its network in the three countries of 4S@Scale, its model with promotor farmers, and its programme management skills. Moreover, Hivos’ network in Latin America and Indonesia is of great value for the total Ecom enterprise.

What are the current challenges within your project?

Sometimes there is unclarity about planning and upcoming meetings between partners in the PPP. In order to solve this and to manage expectations, we need better advanced planning. Another challenge is the fact that the Kenyan county governments want to intervene in coffee trading. They would like to sell coffee as one block to marketing agents, for example from Ecom. 4S@Scale would like to see that the government stays out of this business, and allows business companies to perform the trading.

Is there anything that you would like to share with other PPP practitioners?

One critical thing to share is that, in a PPP, all partners must play equal roles. We appreciate that it is crucial to understand that each stakeholder has its strengths and weaknesses. Moreover it is important to be open to collaborate with likeminded organisations, and other initiatives which function close to the project. 4S@Scale is not afraid to bring other partners on board, and therefore Hivos organises meetings with them. Another relevant activity is to connect to the local and national governments in the country where you operate. Try to look for ways how public actors can add value, and make them support your cause.

More information about 4S@Scale can be found in this video clip. And don’t hesitate to read our project profile about this PPP.