Meru farmers get Sh50m grant to boost marketing

Friday January 29 2016

Shalem Investments CEO Ruth Kinoti. Courtesy

Shalem Investments CEO Ruth Kinoti. Courtesy 

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A Meru based dealer has received Sh50 million grant from FoodTrade East and Southern Africa (ESA), to enhance collective marketing of grains from smallholder farmers.

About 20,000 farmers are set to benefit under a project dubbed ‘A Stitch in Time’ by Shalem Investment ltd in the next two years.

FoodTrade ESA, which is funded by the UK government is operating under a five year trade enhancement and promotion programme with focus on staple food crops.

Speaking at Kianjai market during the launch of the project, Shalem Investments CEO Ruth Kinoti said ‘A Stitch in Time’ will help farmers improve the quality of their grains through mechanized threshing and grading.

“We currently have the capacity to purchase 5,000 metric tonnes of grain but with the support from Food Trade ESA, we will reach 9,000 metric tonnes every season by 2017. We are targeting to engage more farmers through contract farming,” Mrs Kinoti said.

Collective marketing

Shalem Investments will train aggregators to clean and grade their produce hence increasing bargaining power and economies of scale through collective marketing.

“The funding will enable us to purchase improved post-harvest technology equipment to help smallholder farmers increase the volume of high quality target produce for the regional market. We will also improve targeted storage buildings for better and longer storage of produce,” the CEO said.

The company will also collect, transport and market cereals from farmers in the county.

“The maize and beans market in East Africa has not been structured. We are working with Food Trade ESA to lay the structures,” she said.

FoodTrade ESA team leader Marc Van Uytvanck said the organization is seeking to increase the number of people trading in regional staple food markets.

“The project was the only one from Kenya among five others in the region that were selected for grants. The focus is to facilitate collective marketing to enable smallholder farmers attract better prices,” Mr Uytvanck said.

The initiative backed by East Africa Grain Council (EAGC) is expected to unlock trade across borders and the region to enhance food security.

Shalem Investments which is now a member of EAGC will be able to trade produce through G-Soko, EAGC’s virtual trading platform.

G-Soko links smallholder farmers to grain buyers across East Africa through a networked and structured market mechanism that utilises innovative technology to provide information on market opportunities, track goods, and connect buyers and sellers.

The trading platform’s development and implementation has been funded by FoodTrade ESA at a cost of more than Sh600 million.