At least 300,000 farmers from twelve Counties in the country now can access markets in Agriculture value chains through the USAID funded Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems (KCDMS) project.
Majority of Dairy and Horticulture farmers are reaping big from the five years initiative was able to reach over 150,000 children under two and caregivers with Nutrition interventions component to improve the health of the communities.
The USAID Project was implementing the various programmes that empowered farmers to reduce poverty levels through production and improve agriculture market systems at at the same time address malnutrition cases among children.
Speaking during a media breakfast session, the project , Chief of Party (CoP) Dr. Robert Mwadime said the five years exercise which started in 2017 and lapsed in October last year helped in reduction of poverty for small holder farmers thereby improving their food insecurity.
He said the project which involved the selected counties and the private sector reached out to farmers to address the main challenges afflicting their productivity and developed a marketing strategy for their produce.
“We have for the last five years been dealing with different value chains , avocado, mango, dairy, banana ,passion fruits and also any other activities in production that would benefit the farmers in the region specifically nine counties from Western area and three others from Eastern Kenya”, he said.
Dr. Mwadime explained that farmers faced hurdles in generating income from their produce because they lacked ready access to marketing outlets for their harvests hence the need to develop reliable and consistent market for the produce to avert losses accassioned during post-harvest periods.
“We can help farmer produce more but there must be a market outlet for the surplus which has been a challenge so that they can fully invest in production when they are assured of market that pays and is consistent”, he said
Dr. Mwadime further said that apart from identifying markets for the farmers, the KCDMS has been able to identify markets that require bigger volumes for exports and for their distribution and trade in the country.
He gave an example of avocado fruit whose 90 percent has been produced in central Kenya but through the programme has now been introduced in the Western region and was doing very well
“With ravages of climate change taking effect, the volumes of avocado production in the central region went down due to land constraints and the persistent use of old trees hence the need to find fresh openings in Western counties which have vast fertile land to scale up production to bridge the gap for export produce” he said.
He added that the expansion to western offered a production period incentive for any exporter as their avocados can be harvested earlier than those from other regions presents a gap for producing even more avocados of export quality.
Dr. Mwadime however observed that it was critical to ensured farmers accessed quality seeds and seedlings saying the County governments had partnered with the private sector such as the RTI international who created a seedling site to ensure production of over 100,000 seedlings to address such challenges.
“We offer incentives to farmers by giving them subsidies through funding from USAID to buy seedlings and increase their avocado trees from 10 to even 50 trees so that they can improve their income and attract companies that would buy from their region through organized farmer groups”, Dr. Mwadime said .
Judith Odongo Deputy CoP said KCDMS has gone further in supporting local private investors that work with vulnerable smallholder households to mitigate the effects of the war in Ukraine.
She said KCDMS had received a nine-month relief starting December 2022 to November 2023 for cost extension from Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act (AUSAA) to address the macro-economic effects of the Ukrainian invasion on the vulnerable communities in the 12 Counties.
“We have been working with agro-dealers to incentivize farmers to procure fertilizer, lime and soil test services kits in order to promote and support their production”, she said.
She explained that the promotion of climate smart technologies around soil and water conservation through dip tillage technology which requires them to open up soil where they will plant and leave the other space untouched has seen farmers reap big.
“Using the tiller that goes deeper a little bit, has enabled farmer to actually see better produce and crop from what they would have done if they did conventional ploughing which exposes soil and nutrients leaving very little for crop to grasp”, she said
Odongo further explained that the project was keen on promoting and supporting production, processing and marketing of seeds and crops that were drought tolerant through a collaboration with researchers from KEPHIS and KALRO.
She also cited one of the cooperative in Taita Taveta County which had invested heavily in a seed processing plant and had partnered with multi stakeholders in marketing their products.
Julius Okoth, an Agro-dealer in Siaya County said the KCDMS project had helped him identify and reached farmers for distribution of subsidized fertilizer.
He however said although the government and County authorities offered subsidies on fertilizers, the biggest challenge was distribution but they opted to enlist the support of 20 agro- dealers to establish a franchises to reach over 10,000 farmers.
Okoth said despite the impact of the Ukraine war that pushed the high cost of fertilizer the KCDMS partnership programmed cushioned many farmers as they were able to get the farm inputs at subsidized price including incentives such as two bags of maize for planting free.
The KCDMS has been working through 22 grant partners, 2 local implementing partners and the 12 county governments namely Kitui, Makueni, Taita Taveta, Homabay, Migori, Kisii, Kisumu, Siaya, Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia and Vihiga.
Agriculture sector is the backbone of the Kenyan economy contributing approximately 33 percent of Kenyans Gross Domestic Product, but producers continue to face constraints that limit growth and perpetuate food insecurity.
By Wangari Ndirangu