March 14, 2013 - Nairobi, Kenya - Nancy Wangiri, 43, works in a field picking French beans that will be shipped to European Union supermarkets. (Credit Image: © Ric Francis/ZUMAPRESS.com)

A UN agency has secured Sh1 billion ($10m) to help farmers in Kenya to access markets for their produce.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says the funds from the European Union will be used in an ambitious programme that links farmers in rural Kenya to their market.

FAO Kenya representative Robert Allport says already his organisation has piloted the project in 4 counties in the first phase while it will roll out to other four in January.

Those covered include Kitui, Makueni, Tharaka Nithi, and Machakos. The next phase will be in Kilifi, Kwale, Laikipia and Meru. “We have already connected 48000 farmers in these counties to the market and spent $1.2 million (sh120 million). We have signed supply contracts between the farmers and marketing agencies so that they can access the markets,” Allport said.

He was speaking in Addis Ababa during an event to mark 70th anniversary for FAO and review the food situation in the East Africa sub region. “For instance farmers are now able to sell a kilo of green grams at sh80 which is double price what they were selling previously at sh40.

In the counties we have covered the farmers have already accessed market and raked in sh24,” he said. At the same time Allport announced that 1.1 million Kenyans are facing hunger especially in arid and semi arid areas.

He however said this number has reduced from a previous 3 million who faced starvation the previous year. Allport said his agency was working with the government to introduce nutrition as a subject in school curriculum to ensure not only Kenya is a food stable country but also children access nutritional food.

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FAO Eastern Africa region representative Patrick Kormawa said with African population set to rise, the continent must come up with strategies not produce enough to feed its people. “Africa must feed millions of its people, Africa must end malnutrition, Africa must educate its people,” Kormowa said.

FAO says that 10 million Ethiopian face hunger adding that the situation has been compounded by the current El Niño rains pounding the region. The UN agency adds that it’s working with regional governments including IGAD to find a way for addressing the food situation.

By Geoffrey Mosoku

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