Smartphones, Mushrooms, and Savings Groups

Kethu Kethu Farmers Group

Members of the Kethu Kethu Farmers Group 

More than 80 percent of Ugandans rely on agriculture for a living. Most own small farms and often don’t earn enough to grow their businesses. For these farmers, groups like the Kethu Kethu Farmers Group provide a support system to help them through lean times and a window to new opportunities.

Kethu means “our own” in Rukonjo, the local language spoken in the Rwenzori Mountains in Southwestern Uganda – and it reflects the spirit of the group. They are determined to help each other improve farming practices and the overall quality of life in their community.

The Kethu Kethu Farmers Group is a savings and credit group with 23 members. They pool their savings together and use those funds to make low-interest loans to members in need (up to about $39 US). Group members also support each other with their own individual agricultural projects, joining together to tackle labor intensive tasks more quickly.

In early 2013, the group decided to take on a new project: growing and selling white mushrooms. They invested a third of the group’s savings (approximately $230 US) in the project, which was developed using information from their local Community Knowledge Worker. 

Community Knowledge Workers are a network of trusted advisors who use smartphones to access the information farmers need to care for their crops and livestock and increase their earnings. The advisors are all farmers themselves and were nominated by others in the community. The network has grown to serve more than 209,000 farmers since Grameen Foundation first launched the program in 2010.

The Kethu Kethu members learned what was needed to create the right environment for mushroom cultivation, how to construct the mushroom shed out of mud, and how to harvest the mushrooms. The Community Knowledge Worker also gave them information on markets where they could sell the mushrooms and current prices.  The group expects to earn almost $1900 USD annually – this means they would earn an 826% return on their investment in just the first year.

They plan to expand the mushroom project and are also considering other investments for their profits, including a bee keeping project, a charcoal business, a handicrafts group and a maize (corn) milling business.

“Without this knowledge from our Community Knowledge Worker, we would not have known how to grow mushrooms like this,” said Dominic, one of the leaders of Kethu Kethu. “Now we have a successful business. We are connected to buyers that provide us with revenue to invest in the business so that it can grow. With these revenues we are also able to diversify our projects and try other activities that help us to generate income.”

Grameen Foundation’s Community Knowledge Workers are giving poor farmers in Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire and Uganda access to vital information and new opportunities. Give today to help more family farmers improve their lives and their communities.