Meru County partners with FAO to improve agriculture

By: DAVID MUCHUI

Farmers in Meru are set to benefit from a partnership between the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and county government to open up markets and enhance conservation agriculture.

This was revealed Monday when Meru Governor Peter Munya met with FAO Kenya representative Luca Alinovi, Assistant Representative Daniel Wachira, FAO head of crops and agribusiness Alessio Colussi and county programmes officer Mercy Muleru.

FAO and the Meru County government will develop initiatives to support farmers in bee keeping, coffee farming.

It will also help in the production of sunflower, green grams, chick peas, soya beans, and sorghum.

Mr Alinovi said FAO has been approached by various long-term buyers who are ready to get into contracts with farmers.

Speaking at Alba Hotel in Meru, Mr Alinovi said that FAO and East African Breweries, a major buyer of sorghum, have an agreement to purchase sorghum produced through conservation farming at premium prices.

MANY FARMERS STILL POOR

The FAO country representative noted that despite Kenya being an agricultural country, many farmers remain poor.

“Our initiative as FAO is interested in making the small farmer richer.

“If the small farmer has food on the table and money in the pocket, we have achieved food security.

“The challenge has been pushing small farmers to produce crops with a low profit,” Mr Alinovi said.

He said the organisation has facilitated the signing of a contract worth Sh2.4 billion between farmers and a buyer in Makueni and Tharaka-Nithi counties.

The farmers will supply 30,000 metric tonnes of green grams.

SUPPLY OF SEEDS

Mr Alinovi revealed that Bidco Oil Company has unlimited need for soya beans and sunflower while Nakumatt wants a consistent supply of quality produce.

Production of soya and sunflower has, however, been hampered by lack of enough certified seed, he said.

“There are great opportunities for farmers to multiply soya and sunflower seeds through a contract with Bidco.

“We are ready to provide technical support to ensure quality and standards. We have facilitated farmers in West Pokot to produce seed,” he said.

FAO has, however, emphasised the need for companies to work directly with farmers to stop exploitation by middlemen.

Mr Munya welcomed the initiative and said that saccos in the county, micro-finance banks and extension officers will work with FAO to empower smallholder farmers.

The organisation has established an office in Meru to train farmers on conservation agriculture and help them access markets.