Processing to support young farmers
The best gift governors can give to the youth is to invest in refrigerated agriculture storages, food processing and packaging machines to help young and upcoming farmers whose specialty is mainly horticulture and livestock.
The song about the need for value addition of agriculture has been sung for far too long. It is time for action. With a commitment of Sh50million to Sh100 million, governors of two or more counties can jointly make baby steps in developing the above for collective use by farmers.
We appreciate the realization of the Central Region Economic Bloc (CEREB) of the need to jointly invest in food processing projects. What needs to happen now is quicker implementation so that farmers do not continue to make post-harvest losses and at the same time, realize the benefits of expanding the packaged food market locally and abroad.
Such an arrangement not only addresses the economies of scale in terms of enabling more products to be available and therefore the equipment does not lie idle, but also encourages a cooperative-model use of the investment by the farmers. We have already seen the positive impact of well-managed farmers’ cooperatives but which now need to be expanded beyond the traditional cash crops of coffee, dairy and tea into vegetables and animal other products.
The model of cottage industries at the farm level as been successfully used in China to transform agriculture and grow millionaires from small scale farmers. There is no reason why this should also not be replicated in Kenya, on a big scale.
A lot of perishable produce gets lost on the farm or on the way to the market because of bad roads. And because the farmers are eager to get it to the market, brokers were waiting to offer the lowest possible prices.
With county-based storage, processing and packaging infrastructure, it will be easier to address this matter because even with bad roads, the farmers will make plans to bring their produce to the factory without the hassle of getting to the market first. There, the produce is stored in refrigerated stores meaning it stays longer and then processed and packaged.
This adds enormous value to the produce and gives the farmers the opportunity to release it to the market at an appropriate time. It also helps the farmers to avoid the brokers.
An investment like this will also motivate upcoming young farmers to invest more in agriculture and help meet the goal of food security under President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda.
Another advantage is that with harvest well stored or processed, it can be used as security to borrow loans from banks and other financial institutions to enable the farmer to embark on growing the next crop without the challenge of lack of finance. This can be done through a system known as Warehouse Receipt or its equivalent.
Governors and their county ministers of agriculture and chief officers should embrace innovation-led development such as the noted investment so that we can leap further in making farming more profitable.