MERU GOVERNOR PETER MUNYA ASKS FOR SUPPORT OF SMALL SCALE FARMERS.
By Brenda Kirema, Monday, October 26, 2015 -
The governor of Meru county Peter Munya made a call to the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) to deal with their processes and free the market to give the farmers at the ground level an opportunity to sell their agricultural products directly to consumers. KEBS is government agency responsible for governing and maintaining the standards relating to consuming products "KEBS should cater for processed food only, in fact, it does not inspect anything," Munya said speaking during a meeting with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) officials, a UN agency that ensures food security.He explained that the small scale farmers lacked opportunity to sell their products at high prices due to the unnecessary processes involved courtesy of the KEBS yet they are consumable products direct from the farms. Agriculture, although the backbone of the economy of the Meru county has been heavily unexploited. The small scale farmers are pushed to produce low market products whereas they can explore higher height. Even with the latest technology being deployed in agriculture projects, the farmers did not dare to produce high market products which earn more "Drip irrigation is being carried out in Isiolo with the latest technology but is being used to produce maize, which is a low market product in the economy," the FAO said. Shortening the food chains was essential so create an economic space. The small scale farmers were being exploited by the middlemen who buy products from them and sell them at a higher price to the consumers. An economic space would provide an opportunity where the farmer would sell their products directly to the consumers and still accommodate the middleman through selling of tools and other materials but not entirely the controller of the chain. Peter Munya, who is also the council of governors, noted that the country imports more than 80% of its honey yet beekeeping involves minimum management .The FAO community explained that farmers had been ignorant about beekeeping and sensitization and training of farmers was important. Bees could not only be used as a source of honey but also as a belt in place of an electric fence. In the recent past, the Meru forest had heard reports of wild animals crossing the road and venturing into peoples shambas. With this knowledge Peter Munya with the CEC of Agriculture would put up beehives in the perimeter of the forest as a fence and would to be used in production of honey. "We have already started distribution of beehives and we shall also put up more around the forest to protect the animals and also for agriculture gain," he added. However, the FAO community acknowledged that the quality of honey mattered and it was only through good collection, high hygiene and attractive bottling that could give good results. That way the honey produced would provide a good market locally and internationally. SACCOs have been set up in every ward to facilitate loans for farmers. Small scale farmers have been given a chance to cater for their expenses and be able to farm at the same time. The farmers would plant the crops and in the meantime as they are wait for their products to produce, take loans to facilitate their livelihood and in future sell their products directly and pay their loans through this. Microfinance was too being set up to work with the SACCOs so that not to overload them when the numbers grew big. Additional reporting by Mutugi Seth.