- Farmers will be trained on the importance of growing and consuming organic foodstuffs and demonstration farms established
- The county is one of the counties with a high burden of lifestyle and chronic illnesses that have been attributed to poor feeding
Murang’a County Government is planning to establish food pharmacies in a bid to increase residents' access to healthy and nutritious foods.
The county is among the counties with a high burden of lifestyle and chronic illnesses.
The food pharmacies are supposed to give residents the chance to use organically grown food products to treat chronic and lifestyle illnesses.
This is one of the activities the county government is using to promote organic farming.
“Once the food pharmacies are established, people will be able to walk in and get advice on what foodstuffs they can consume to alleviate certain diseases,” Gitahi said.
In March this year, Murang'a County Assembly enacted into law the Murang’a Agroecology Policy 2022-2032 and the Murang’a County Agro Ecology Development Act, 2022 to promote organic farming.
On Tuesday, the county launched agro ecology implementation framework that will guide the area's transformation into organic farming.
Murang'a county director of agricultural Daniel Gitahi said the administration has partnered with Murang’a University of Technology and Kenyatta University to research on how organically produced farm products can be used to improve health.
The implementation framework will see players lobby to have agro ecology included in the County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP), Annual Development Plan (ADP), Annual Work Plan (AWP) and the budget in order to get financing.
The framework also seeks to have an agro-ecology promotion and marketing board established.
The board will train farmers on the importance of growing and consuming organic foodstuffs and also establish demonstration farms.
The Demonstration farms will also be established in schools through the 4K and Young Farmers Clubs in order to instill the skills in learners early in life.
Food hubs will also be established at the ward level to help aggregate, distribute and market the organic food products.
Gitahi said the county government has identified agro-ecology as one of the solutions to enhance its agricultural productivity, food and nutrition security while at the same time protecting the environment.
“Agro-ecology will help in restoring soil health and ensure there is a prudent natural resource management. It will encourage the use of local biodegradable materials and reduce exposure to hazardous substances," said Gitahi.
Under the framework, producers will be trained to upscale production of agro-ecological products and value addition for increased income.
Farmers will also be trained to engage in circular agriculture that involves keeping residuals of agricultural biomass and food processing as renewable resources such as using plants to make compost manure and avoiding harmful chemicals.
The board will also help in branding and promotion of agro-ecology products, train youths and women on agro-ecological entrepreneurship skills and develop structured marketing systems.
“We will also be promoting contract farming for targeted supply and institute measures for making farm inputs for agro-ecological production affordable,” he added.
With the demand for organic products surging in the international market, Gitahi said the county will be assisting farmers to acquire certification and mark of quality indicating that their produce are organically grown from Murang’a county.
He cited the example of the avocado sector that has seen a Sh69 million aggregation centre constructed to help farmers export their fruits without going through brokers.
The almost complete centre is expected to raise farmers' earnings from Sh87 per kg of avocado to Sh250 per kg.
“We want to export avocados that have an agro-ecology mark of quality through the centre. The most important thing is to make agro ecology economically viable for players,” Gitahi said.
Groups venturing in value addition of organic produce will also be certified so that their products can fetch higher prices.
He added that the county government is working with Murang’a University of Technology to establish a curriculum for a master’s degree in agro-ecology and short courses for extension workers.
Peter Karanja, a stakeholder, said some groups have already started practicing agro ecology and are involved in production of organic farm inputs.
As a farmer, Karanja said using organic inputs preserves the environment especially for bee keepers saying some chemicals kill bees while others result in unhealthy honey.
Others, he said, are commercially growing organic vegetables that are then sold in markets at a higher price.
“We are supporting the establishment of a food pharmacy that will promote research on how foodstuffs can be used to heal some conditions. People will be able to learn about healthy eating and grow agro-ecologically produced foods.”