Strengthening value chain for drought tolerant crops in Kenya

Participants in discussion. Photo: ICRISAT

Participants in discussion. Photo: ICRISAT

The need for effective branding and marketing of drought tolerant crops is critical in order to change consumer perceptions and attitudes was highlighted at a roundtable discussion on issues affecting marketing and value addition of drought tolerant crops.

Dr Moses Siambi, Director – Eastern & Southern Africa, ICRISAT-Kenya, during his presentation on the ICRISAT Smart Food campaign said, “Drought tolerant crops including sorghum, millets, pigeonpea and groundnut are smart crops because of the high nutritional value, high resilience under extreme weather and the potential to improve incomes of smallholder farmers living in very dry areas.” The Smart Food campaign aims to improve nutrition, reduce poverty and improve
incomes along the value chain.

Ms Bilha Maina, Managing Director, Kenya Promotions and Marketing Company (H) Ltd, sharing her experiences in sorghum contract farming said, “Certainty pricing is important but there is more that is needed to make farmer contracting actually work.” According to Ms Maina, supporting farmers to bear market risks can win their trust and promote development of contract farming. Some challenges that need to be addressed include, underdeveloped markets and shortage of capital, making it difficult for enterprises to fulfil their contracts with farmers. “Market development is key and it will help trigger production,” she said. This was seconded by Ms Paloma Fernandez, Executive Officer, Kenya Cereal Millers Association, who said, “It’s difficult for us to use these crops because it increases the cost of products. Without consumer education, this becomes difficult for us.” Ms Fernandez pointed out that the biggest challenge is usually the standards of farmer organizations, the quality, cost and quantities. “If the cost of sorghum is going to be higher than maize, we might not succeed to get millers interested,” she said.

“Ninety percent of our grain goes to milling. We therefore need to support millers work with these high value crops,” asserted Dr Romano Kiome, Program Manager (Chief of Party), Feed the Future Kenya Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD) Program, International Livestock Research Institute, adding that increasing productivity and market development is the key to bringing the price down.

The AVCD Program seeks to not only improve productivity of drought tolerant crops but also promote utilization of nutritious foods in Kenya. Under this program, ICRISAT is working to overcome the challenges that affect the sorghum and millets value chains. These include low productivity, poor systems for disseminating improved varieties and lack of a functioning marketing system to link smallholder producers with domestic and international markets.

The team agreed that monthly forums will be held on the first Friday of every month and the drought tolerant crops value chain team was requested to put together a team to develop and move forward the action plan for the nutrition behavior change communications campaign.

The meeting which took place in Nairobi on 11 March was attended by 10 partners and stakeholders. Companies and organizations represented included USAID, FIRM (Financial Inclusion for Rural Microenterprises), World Food Program (WFP), Kenya Promotion and Marketing Company (KPMC), Cereals Millers Association (CMA), Green Forest Foods, Farm Africa, International Livestock Research Institute and ICRISAT.

Project: Feed the Future Kenya Accelerated Value Chain Development Program

Investor: Feed the Future (USAID)

Partners: International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Potato Center (CIP), Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Egerton University, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, and ICRISAT

CGIAR Research Program: Dryland Cereals

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