SCOBICS I began with efforts by ICRAF in 1999 to promote the use of rock phosphate fertiliser amongst farmers in pilot villages of Sauri sub-location, Siaya District, through the provision of credit in kind. Previous research efforts in these sub-locations, spanning a number of years, had shown that enhanced soil fertility for crop production and food security required the application of a combination of nitrogen and phosphorus elements to the soil. Whilst much of the required nitrogen could be obtained through a variety of organic technologies (including the use of improved fallows and biomass transfer), sufficient phosphorus could only be obtained through the use of purchased inputs. Whilst the scope of SCOBlCS has broadened over time, the initial objective of enabling farmers to enhance the fertility of their soil for crop production and food security remains central. SCOBICS thus provides agricultural production inputs (chiefly improved seeds and fertilizers) to semi-subsistence farmers as credit in kind. Loans (inputs) are disbursed on an annual cycle, being
delivered to borrowers in January to March in time for long rains season planting activities, with repayment required in November-December (although loan collection does begin
Until June 2005, SCOBICS operated as part of a broader KEFRl-ICRAF-Imperial College London research project, based at KEFRl-Maseno and funded by the Natural Resource Systems
Programme (NRSP) of the UK Department for International Development (DFID). This project has now come to an end and efforts are ongoing to hand the operation of SCOBICS to a commercial micro finance service provider.
The NRSP-funded project aimed to promote integrated crop management within Western Kenya and had four main components:
• the production and dissemination of decision support tools to enable fanners to make coherent, informed choices about which crops to plant and how to protect the natural resource base upon which they depend. The project aimed to promote an appropriate balance between organic and inorganic production technologies and to encourage fanners to select crops on the basis of their performance in terms both of financial and soil fertility indicators;
• exploration and development of marketing channels to support the production of crops that are well suited to the production conditions of the Western Kenya highlands;
• ensuring adequate provision of high quality seed of priority crops and varieties;
• SCOBICS itself.