Ukambani’s ndengu revolution project hits marketing headwinds

Mwangi Mumero  @PeopleDailyKe

Growers of green grams (ndengu) in Kitui, Machakos, Tharaka Nithi and Meru counties stand to lose millions of shillings due lack of markets.

Increased rainfall in the March-June season in semi-arid regions in the country has seen a bumper harvest of the crop, increasing the urgency to seek new markets after India declined to buy the produce.

A crisis meeting organised by the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and county governments representatives held in Nairobi  was told local and international markets for the legume should be sought to cope with increased glut.

While involvement of the county governments and ICRISAT have boosted production of ndengu, market prices have plummeted. “Markets are currently depressed with the cost of green gram per kilo dropping to Sh58 from as high as Sh70,” observed Gabriel Kitetu, a participant at the meeting.

Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu said local institutions such as schools should be encouraged to buy green grams from local farmers. The governor plans to invest in value addition of green grams in her county. “Cleaning and grading will increase the value of the farmers’ produce,” she added.

Dr Romano Kiome, chief of party, Feed the Future Kenya Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD) Programme, said they are trying to arrest the situation, which has moved from a green gram celebration to a green gram crisis. The USAid-supported programme seeks to apply technologies and innovations for selected value chains to competitively and sustainably increase productivity.

The forum recommended increased availability of good storage facilities and the urgent need to conduct marketing forums for Kitui, Makueni and Meru. National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) facilities can also be used to store the crop.

County governments should also promote the acquisition of storage bags and to encourage formation of business organisations by farmers to drive avalue addition and championing farmers welfare. Lobbying for a national policy to incorporate green grams in government food purchases for government institutions and as relief food will also be carried out.

At the international level, Icrisat is to work closely with the county governments in preparing a paper to be presented to the World Food Programme requesting to buy green grams locally. Negotiations will also be initiated for the Indian market.

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