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Vihiga picks 2,500 farmers to grow traditional vegetables

By Eric Lungai

Over 2,000 small scale farmers from Vihiga County have benefited from a project aimed at promoting growing of African indigenous vegetables.

County Trade and Industrialisation Executive Committee member Geoffrey Vukaya said the project was among other recommendations made at an investment conference held last year.

He said the department will recruit farmers to participate in the project, which is jointly conducted by Natural Products Industry (NPI).

“We are beginning to venture in African Indigenous Vegetables for commercialisation purposes, and we have teams on the ground that will guide farmers and provide seeds,” Mr Vukaya said.

He added, “The overall objective is to assess viability of commercialisation of indigenous vegetables in Western Kenya starting with Vihiga County.”

He spoke at Shamakhokho where the official launch of the project, estimated to cost over Sh30 million, took place.

Culture and Heritage Principal Secretary Josephta Mukobe, Governor Wilber Ottichilo attended the event together with stakeholders from Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology led by Prof Mary Abukutsa, the NPI team and officials from Tuskys retail chains.

Ms Mukobe said the ministry will support in acquiring high quality seeds that will be distributed to farmers for maximum yields.  

Prof Abukutsa said they will guide farmers in the region on best farming practices to get maximum results.  

Vukaya noted the proposed venture will involve bulk production of freshly produced vegetables, setting up of collection centres and pack houses with in-built cold storage at Walodeya in Chavakali, Majengo, Cheptulu, and Wemilabi markets and delivery to identified markets.

He said they have proposed to produce and market five varieties of vegetables including Black Nightshade (Managu), Spiderplant (Saga), Amaranth (Terere), Cowpeas (Kunde) and Jute Mallow (Murenda).

This venture will initially cover western region and eventually extend to other regions.

Vukaya said the NPI initiative is one of the flagship projects in the Kenya Vision 2030 development blue print.

“The project seeks to fully harness the natural products sub sector and thereby build it into a vibrant industry that will significantly contribute to national development priorities including employment and wealth creation, poverty alleviation, improved biodiversity management and attainment of double-digit GDP growth,” he said.

Farmers will benefit from harvesting twice per week, with a target of harvesting 15 sacks per season, with a reported income of Sh102,400.

He said already, Carrefour, a French multinational retail chain has shown interest in buying the vegetables.

“This will reduce the time wasted by farmers who have to line up every morning on the road to transport their produce to Kisumu,” he said.

The pilot project targets to make use of 100 acres. Abukutsa, the current Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Research, Production and Extension at JKUAT is credited for strategic repositioning of African indigenous vegetables through pioneering research, dissemination, conservation and development of seeds and restructuring curricula to include indigenous crops. 

The don says although there are misconceptions about traditional vegetables, they have significantly more nutritional value than exotic ones.  

elungai@standardmedia.co.ke    

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