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    Farmers in the deluge prone Bunyala area of Budalangi who have traditionally lost their harvest due to incessant floods are now assured of safety of their harvests thanks to community granaries that are built on dry areas. The granaries, built through pooling together of resources by local farmers, ensure that anytime farmers harvest they place the surplus in the granaries which they can then get anytime they want for home consumption and for sale.

    Richard Uzero a maize farmer in the area and one of the first farmers to embrace the communal granary concept knows just how important it means to him and his family of five. Since early 90’s he has been losing about 60 percent of his surplus harvest to floods. “I have a small granary in my compound. I harvest around five to six bags of maize every harvest. I lose about three of the bags to the floods because by the time I preserve them for a bigger market price the floods have already hit,” he said.

    The community granary built on higher dry area which is not reached by the floods has over 60 farmers and stocks different produce including millet, maize, beans and groundnuts. The granary has a clerk who keeps records of what comes in and out.

    Once a farmer brings the produce, he is assigned a specific membership number and card which lists how many bags or kilos have been brought and the date. The farmer can walk in and out any time to remove his produce but must produce his membership number and card. “This ensures that each there is a clean sheet that monitors what comes in and out. Each farmer is allocated a space in the granary to avoid confusion. The space is clearly marked with the member’s name and number,” said Ethan Njunge the chief clerk at the granary.

    Members have monthly contributions of Sh250 which goes into the maintenance of the granary and the payment of the clerk. The granary also hosts produce from farmers who are non members but who are charged Sh500 per month to be allocated space. “Already we have 12 non members who we are housing,” said Victoria Auma the secretary of the organization.

    A study conducted by Farm Bulb International, a not for profit organization working with smallholder farmers across Africa found out that smallholder farmers who had invested in the community granaries had managed to invest upto 40 percent of their yields. “This is not just through saving the produce from floods but is allowing them to pick higher market prices at a later date when demand is high.

    That has been one of the biggest income generators for households around here. One farmer managed to make Ssh10,000 extra than he would have if he didn’t invest in the granaries,”said Maria Koba a programme officer with Farm Bulb International.

    Over 70 million people in developing countries who largely depend on Cassava are set to benefit from a new breed of the crop that can not only be bred on large scale to contain high contents of vitamin A but also take a shorter time to triple the Vitamin A content.

    The process which is dubbed rapid cycling enables Cassava to be bred on a large scale to contain high contents of vitamin A and the process shortens the usual period from eight to only three years, according to a study done by researchers from Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

    The researchers say more than 70 million people in developing countries depend on cassava as a source of food but the current varieties lack enough vitamin A, an important nutrient that the WHO estimates its deficiency could make up to 500,000 children worldwide become blind each year.
    Experts note that currently, cassava roots are only good as a source of calories or energy. Hernan Ceballos, the lead author and a plant breeder at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) explained, “People need other nutrients like minerals, vitamins and proteins and cassava roots currently don’t have them and that is why we are initiating these research. This revelation comes at a time when statistics indicate that millions of people in Africa are typically affected by vitamin deficiency.

    The researchers from CIAT selected cassava varieties known to produce yellow roots and produced clones from them. They planted the seedlings from the clones in two experimental locations in Colombia from 2004 to 2009 and monitored the content of vitamin A in the new cassava varieties each year.

    The study established that the new process could quadruple the amount of beta-carotene, the orange pigment the body uses to make vitamin A, in three years. “This is the first report of a rapid cycling process to increase carotenoids in cassava on a large scale,” she added.

    Ceballos said that it usually takes about eight years for the selection process to establish genetic gain the time needed for one normal cassava breeding cycle but their process took advantage of the cassava plants that carry the good genes for high-carotene content and can be trusted to transfer these good genes to their offspring.
    The study is part of a ten-year project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop biofortified cassava. “The breeding work to develop high carotene cassava clones for the ten years cost about $2 million,” noted Ceballos.

    The cassava varieties developed at CIAT in Colombia, he explained, have been sent to International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria where they are being used to develop commercial varieties that will meet farmers’ expectations. The initial focus countries are Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria but the implementation will also gradually focus on other East African countries like Uganda and Kenya.
    Ceballos says scientists need policymakers to fast-track the uptake of their research findings. Ivan Rwomushana, staple crops programme manager at the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa, says: “The development of cassava varieties rich in pro-vitamin A can contribute tremendously to vitamin A nutrition”.
    “The development and promotion of vitamin A-rich varieties will make a timely and significant contribution to improving dietary vitamin A status and food security in the region”. Rwomushana adds that to combat vitamin A deficiency, there should be a combined approach, including using supplementation, long-term nutritional education and diets with varieties of nutrients.

    Farmers and youth who have traditionally been locked out of modern farming due to financial constraints can now breathe easy after a partnership between Amiran and Rafiki Deposit taking Microfinance, a subsidiary of Chase Bank inked a deal, meant at providing credit finance on farm inputs like greenhouse and drip kits to foster the deepening and adoption of the modern farming techniques in the country.

    According to Yariv Kedar, the deputy Managing Director of Amiran, although a considerable number of Kenyans have been enlightened of the benefits and the means of carrying out modern farming techniques, many have been left out from the adoption of these modern farming techniques due to largely lack of finance to purchase them.  “It is behind Amiran love for a full transformation process that we have sought out on likeminded financial institution like Chase bank to help empower Kenyan Youths and farmers at large.

    We have had awareness programs and have travelled throughout the country but realized that after the skills and knowledge transfer, many of our target population needed an extra aid in terms of finance.” Under this program, the financial institutions will disburse loans of as low as Sh14, 500 for the purchase of Amiran’s Foundation Kit for starter farmers,  and youth going up to Sh272, 000 for the standard Amiran Farmers Kit (AFK) and millions of shillings for purchase of Amiran innovations for large scale farmers.

    Chase Bank Deputy Executive Officer Paul Njaga noted that the program is in line with the bank’s goal of empowering smallholder farmers in the country. “Agribusiness is one of our major focuses in the coming financial year and as result we have set aside about Sh3.5billion to foster it in the country.” Chase bank will mainly finance large scale farmers and the credit finance on the input will have varying interest rates depending on the clientele needs but with a range of 18-21 percent.

    Rafiki DTM loans will be focused on the small scale farmers and the youth. This will spearhead efforts to decrease youth unemployment and support small scale farmers to turn from subsistence agriculture done for survival into wealth creation farming through the Amiran way of smart agribusiness. According to RAFIKI DTM Chief Executive Officer Daniel Mavindu, their institution has set aside about Sh300 million for the program which will be offered at a varying interest rate depending on the needs of the client ranging 15-20 percent. “We understand the plight of the youth and most small scale farmers in the country as most of them are regarded as high risk clients because of their lack of viable collateral in credit finance.

    We are therefore not going to demand for the conventional collateral and the rate of access and finance will be dealt with on a case by case approach,” added Mavindu. We have improvised collateral conditions and made the whole process flexible to enable the success of the program. For instance, the youths and smallholder farmers with no viable collateral will only be needed to provide relative guarantors or even assurances from the parents and guardians that they will till the land for a specific period of time.

    The beneficiaries of the program will be given a specific grace period before the onset of the payment period. “These are farm inputs and we have put it into consideration that the farmers who will acquire the farm inputs are given a grace period that corresponds with the period that the crops they are dealing take to mature and be harvested. You only expect a farmer to start paying back the loan after selling the produce,” explained Mavindu. After successful agreements with financial institutions, farmers will then proceed to Amiran which hand them their farm input they have applied for with prerequisite knowledge on how to make returns using the technology.

    In order to ensure the success of the initiative, the three parties have made it open to even non members of the two financial institutions. Mavindu noted, “This is open to any farmer irrespective of whether you are an account holder with Chase or Rafiki. All interested farmers and the youths only need to register with the institutions and meet the set requirements.” According to him, the cooperative agreement by the three institutions to disburse cheaper and flexible loans to farmers and the youth is the right step to empowering our country to economic growth. “Agriculture holds an important key to poverty reduction through increased productivity, value addition, improved technologies and linkages to other sectors.”

    With the lending programmes, Chase Bank, Amiran Kenya and Rafiki DTM will all focus on equipping farmers to produce more quality produce enough to feed the country while also attracting international markets in a move to further open up Kenyans agricultural export industry. Njaga applauded the initiative and was very optimistic about its positive impact in the society. “The survival of Kenya’s agriculture rests squarely on the youth who are the farmers and leaders of tomorrow.

    Two-thirds of Kenyans depend directly on agriculture for their livelihoods In addition to ensuring food security; agriculture plays a vital role in supporting our economy and generating employment which is a greater step to realization of Vision 2030. Our youth continue to struggle to find jobs, yet there are emerging opportunities they can tap into, particularly in the agricultural sector that can help them to be self-reliance and more enterprising. Failure for our youth to exploit and grab the opportunities we are continuously providing to them such as these, not only shuts down a key economic window to national development, but predisposes society to social and economic instability.”

    Mr. Njaga added that the Bank’s partnership with Amiran Kenya and Rafiki DTM will signal the significance of developing the agricultural sector and create more opportunities for farmers and the youth. He noted that the Bank’s move to offer competitive and flexible financing is in tandem with Chase Bank’s commitment to reach out to the SME sector and more so the youth sector who are increasingly involved in agri-business. With 80 per cent of the entrepreneurs in the country being in agri-business addressing this sub-sector will significantly boost SMEs.

    Amiran Kenya will play the part of installing equipment, training the farmers both practically and theoretically on Amiran products, offer advice and carry out farm visits through Amiran’s professional and experienced agronomists to ensure that farmers attain the best possible harvest, allowing them to clear off their loans calmly and at the expected time frame.

    “Agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy and new investment in form of finance is essential for creating new jobs and economic growth. Amiran is pleased to have partnered with like-minded organizations like Chase Bank and Rafiki DTM as part of our broader engagement to support all levels of farmers on one angle and special attention to the youth as another angle, as we empower them to be the leaders of now.

    This new lending initiatives further supports the use of modern farming techniques that work to conserve the country’s natural resources, contribute to more young people venturing into agribusiness as well as, improve quality of farmers produce by the use of Amiran’s modern and field proven technologies.” said Pinhas Moskovich, Amiran Kenya Managing Director.

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