Project to increase production, consumption of African Traditional Vegetables is underway in Kenya and Ethiopia

Tuesday, January 12th, 2021 00:00 |

Over 2000 traditional vegetable farmers in Kenya are going to benefit from a Sh799.2 million (6 million Euros) project targeting to empower about 120 business networks involved in the vegetable value chain in the country.

The five-year project funded by IKEA Foundation and implemented by World Vegetable Centre and SNV, the Netherlands Development Organization at completion will generate Sh1.2 billion (9 million Euros) per year.

Project managers said yesterday in Nairobi, already 60 business networks drawn from counties in the periphery of Nairobi and Kisumu cities, have been identified, and will pioneer the project which is also being implemented in Ethiopia.

World Vegetable Center Country director and project principal investigator, Ralph Roothaert, said the project is informed by the rising demand for traditional vegetables in the cities where members of the middle class are increasingly realising the benefits of the African traditional vegetables.

“However, due to constraints in supply informed by a range of challenges including poor logistics; short shelf life of the vegetables and lack of proper data, consumers are finding it difficult to access the product,” he told People Daily during the opening of a two-day inception workshop in Nairobi to clarify the goals; objectives and targets of the project in Kenya.

The workshop brings together policy makers, who are being involved right from the start of the project.

Roothaert said consumption of traditional vegetables in Kenya and Ethiopia, the target countries is a growing market because more and more people in the cities are aware of the nutritional value of these vegetables, especially since the emergence of Covid-19 last year when people realised the need to boost immunity. 

“The project has already kicked off, and we have identified more than 60 business networks that we want to develop in Central Kenya; Murang'a, Kiambu, and also Machakos. In the Western region of the country, the project is being implemented in Vihiga; Kakamega, and Kisumu,” he said, noting that some of the players in the value chain are attending the workshop.

He said the aim of the workshop is to further identify business coaches who will teach business skills, initially for free, but when the businesses are up and running, the young participants, mainly university graduates in horticulture will be selling their services.

“It is shown that the average consumption of African traditional vegetables in East Africa is 59 grams per day per capita, way below the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended 400 grams per day per capita of fruits and vegetables a person is supposed to consume.

“Therefore a need for us to do more to increase production,” he added.

To address some of those challenges, the Ministry of Agriculture is currently promoting high standard nurseries for traditional vegetables for increased economic empowerment,’ climate resilience, nutrition and food security.

Joshua Oluyali, the director in charge of horticulture at the Ministry said the vegetable business networks will be able to address all the challenges.

“The vegetable business networks will be positioned to capture rising consumer demand for traditional African vegetables such as amaranth, African nightshade, spider plant and Ethiopian mustard,” he said.

The initiative, he said targets to work closely with policy makers and implementers to facilitate enabling environment for vegetable business networks, and the programme will help strengthen seed systems to enhance the supply of high quality seeds of traditional and other vegetables.

“I must repeat that in most cases it’s not the lack of funds to implement various interventions but inability to come up with simple effective interventions..

“We have the responsibility therefore to demonstrate willingness to approach issues with open minds to find that elusive solution,” he said noting that at the ministry level, the horticulture unit has developed proposals seeking to develop data and start public traditional vegetable nurseries.

This programme is further informed by the need to boost people’s immunity owing to the fact that consumption of fibre deficient foods especially in Nairobi is rampant and a result of obesity, which is a big concern mainly, affecting women.

“An estimated 35 per cent of women in Nairobi are obese and susceptible to life style-related diseases such as diabetes, coronary ailments and other non-communicable diseases such as cancer. We therefore have a responsibility to increase production; processing, marketing and retailing of traditional African vegetables,” Roothaert added.

On the part of small children, data at the Ministry of Health has shown that lack of consumption of traditional vegetables – that are rich in fibre, iron and Vitamin A among other nutritional values, has contributed to children being exposed to deficiency of micronutrients such as calcium.

“These three minerals and vitamins are highly present in traditional vegetables; 4 times more iron in traditional vegetables; 10 times more iron and 10 times more in calcium.

“About 30 percent of children below the age of 5 are malnourished mainly due to deficiency in micronutrients,” Roothaert said.

However, lack of data on trade in traditional vegetables is a challenge to determine demand and the required supply.

Roothaert said the project therefore intends to establish what the volumes of traditional vegetables are; where they are growing, and where it is relatively sold more than other places.

Dr. Gabriel Rugalema, the World Vegetable Center Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa said the workshop comes at an opportune moment to identify enabling environmental factors with government authorities; create synergies with major stakeholders, and engage the private seed sector.

“We are also prioritising research in regenerative agriculture and linking to socio-economic research, monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL),” he added.

The IKEA Foundation asked the World Vegetable Center to develop a project that will be implemented in Kenya and Ethiopia.

So far initial results have shown that about 200 networks will be created, and at least 4000 jobs for youths and women will be established in the two countries who will engage in vegetable production; processing, marketing and retailing.

“All these efforts will result in an income of Sh1.2 billion (9 million euros) per year because of improved technologies and markets from well managed vegetable production,” Roothaert confirmed.

On July 1, 2020, the World Vegetable Centre, in partnership with SNV Netherlands Development Organisation launched a new initiative to create employment for youth and women in the vegetable value chain in Kenya and in Ethiopia. The initiative is called Veggies 4 Planet & People (V4P&P) and funded by the IKEA Foundation for 6 million Euros for a period of 5 years.

V4P&P places special emphasis on regenerative agricultural technologies including biochar; compost, green manures, crop rotation and beneficial microbes to nourish the soil; reduce or eliminate the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides; and enhance water use efficiency.

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