BIG FOUR AGENDA

Answer lies in value addition

In Summary

• Roadside markets for villagers returning to towns during weekends have not been sufficient, especially without value addition.

• Migori Governor Okoth Obado has boarded the presidential agenda.

Value addition
Value addition
Image: STAR ILLUSTRATED

The President's Big Four agenda is attainable if the 47 governors buy into the vision, embrace public participation, reduce wastage, and cut down on corruption.    

Makueni Governor Kivutha Kibwana is ahead of the crowd. Value addition to farm produce such as mangoes and milk is taking shape. Devolution has brought opportunities closer to the people of Makueni. Farmers have better prices for their produce. A foundation has been laid for manufacturing. Food security has been boosted. Jobs are coming, thanks to devolution and responsible leadership.

If the pace is sustained, and more governors buy in, roadside toll stations of jobless youth waylaying politicians for handouts will disappear. Citizens will have the opportunity and motivation to eat from their sweat.     

Migori Governor Okoth Obado has boarded the presidential agenda, with the launch of a sweet potato processing plant in Getonganya in Kuria West subcounty. With this, and other initiatives, Obado's development legacy is shaping up.

Farmers down there who once relied on tobacco are excited. Growers dropped tobacco when it became a liability. Frustrations from tobacco-buying firms, lack of reliable markets, poor prices, and high cost of production killed the tobacco industry. The exit of Alliance One Tobacco Company knocked out the crop from farms in Migori, and neighbouring Trans-Mara of Narok county. British America Tobacco and Mastermind Tobacco left the region earlier.

The avocado export deal to China, which was concluded last week, is another good news for farmers who desire a wider market for wasted farm produce. But why export raw avocado? Local value addition would be a better guarantee for jobs.

The next pick for farmers is sweet potatoes. The harvest is plenty, but the market is uncertain. The Getonganya potato processing plant fills this gap, thanks to a development partnership between Migori and the European Union. The establishment of the plant could eliminate brokers. Middlemen now buy a mounted 100kg sack of potatoes at Sh1,600, and a 90kg load at Sh900.   

Buying prices for the processing plant have not been set, but potato farming promises profits. Direct employment of 300 people is expected. When you add small-holder farmers, suppliers, and related businesses, the Getonganya potato plant is an opportunity to advance two of the President's Big Four agenda - manufacturing and food security.

The plant will have a capacity of crushing 100 tonnes of potatoes daily, to produce crisps, flour, and biscuits. There is a possibility of the capacity being enhanced for the plant to serve a wider catchment of potato growers.  

The avocado export deal to China, which was concluded last week, is another good news for farmers who desire a wider market for wasted farm produce. But why export raw avocado? Local value addition would be a better guarantee for jobs.

The roadside markets for villagers returning to towns during weekends have not been sufficient, especially without value addition. But there is a way in which travelling villagers, eager to avoid city supermarkets, boost roadside money circulation.  

Soaring inflation gives the expression ‘you can take a villager out of the village but you cannot take the village out of the villager’, a practical meaning. Visits to fresh produce shelves at The Hub, Two Rivers, or Westgate is a reminder of how cheap fresh farm products are upcountry.   

Every time food-starved and cost-conscious urban workers travel upcountry, they return to the cities with boot-loads of kienyeji vegetables, fruits, sugarcane, cassava and sweet potatoes. Some even add kuku from Bomet county's Mulot Market and charcoal from Narok, to the Nairobi-bound baggage.  

Many cannot afford these fresh agricultural products as regularly as they would to want in Nairobi. Which is why urbanised villagers return to Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa and Nakuru with enough stock to last for weeks.   

Now ask no more why Kisii county's roadside market Kegati-Obaracho is always parked with Nairobi-bound vehicles, with excited hawkers shouting across the windows. Aggressive ones get into the vehicles to sell.

Kisii Governor James Ongwae is building makeshift stalls along the Kisii-Nairobi highway at Obaracho, to keep excited hawkers from the road. But the long-term value for farmers lies in value addition.