By: BEATRICE OBWOCHA
Smallholder farmers in Kenya are set to gain from the school feeding programme that aims at providing mid-day meals to children in arid and semi-arid areas.
“Our effort is to connect smallholder farmers to school markets.
“This is a critical market that will bolster the incomes in rural areas and thereby improve the farmers’ economic fortunes,” said Leah Njeri, the Country Coordinator, Procurement Governance for Home Grown School Feeding at SNV Kenya.
SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Kenyan government have designed a procurement guideline for schools to ensure transparency, accountability and access to the markets in the school meals programme.
The report on the guidelines will be released this week.
In the current year, the government has set aside about Sh850 million for the Home Grown School Feeding Programme.
Ms Njeri noted this is a substantial fund that should form the basis of an economic rise among the smallholder famers.
ACCESS GOVT MARKETS WITH EASE
“When we have a structured procurement system, then smallholder farmers can access the government markets with ease,” Ms Njeri said Sunday prior to the national learning event schedule for this week.
The event will bring together various participants including the government and its agencies, policy makers and international development partners.
SNV and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have carried out a pilot study on smallholder farmers in the school markets programme.
The pilot study looked into capacity building and development of procurement guidelines and governance systems.
The initial pilot programme targeted about 12 counties.
These included Baringo, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Kilifi, and Laikipia. Others were Meru, Mwingi and Kitui, Nandi, Narok, Trans Nzoia, and Uasin Gishu.
About 15, 000 smallholder farmers are now part of the 134 organisations that access the school markets. About 6,500 of these are women.
Through this approach, farmers have been encouraged to form marketing companies and cooperatives that will give them an edge while selling their produce to schools.
This market emerged when the government started to take the responsibility of providing school children in arid and semi-arid lands with mid-day meals.
Initially, WFP handled the exercise.
During the transition period, different actors piloted with the concept of involving smallholder farmers to supply the food to the government-run schools as a way of fighting poverty.
The concept is also encouraging schools to purchase produce from local farmers.
“These programmes provide incentives for poor families in developing nations to send their children to school and increase their chances for a poverty-free future,” said Ms Njeri.
She emphasised the need to help people in rural areas fight poverty through such programmes.
“To meaningfully end poverty, smallholder farmers need to access government markets. The school meals programme is one such avenue.
“We need more room for our farmers. That is the surest way of building rural economies,” Ms Njeri concluded.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION