Tired of poor prices, green grams farmers form cooperative

Green gram farmers from Makima region of Embu County register to form a cooperative at Kitololoni Primary School. [Joseph Muchiri/Standard]
Green grams farmers in Mbeere region of Embu County have come together through a co-operative society to boost their opportunities in businesses.

Last season the farmers harvested 837,000kg of green grams but most of them sold the produce at throwaway prices to brokers to meet immediate needs.

This has been the trend season-in-season-out. They want to change it.

Last season William Kimeu from Riakanau area had six acres under green grams and harvested 15 bags, which he sold at between Sh30 and Sh40 per kilogramme.

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The same quantity retails at Sh100 at the local market.

“If I had tended my farm well by enriching the soil with manure in addition to spraying pesticides, I would have harvested double, about 30 bags. But I could not afford the inputs because the proceeds from the previous yield were meagre,” he said.

Monicah Kisilu, who had two acres under green grams, harvested just four bags that she sold cheaply to middlemen.

Vicious circle

“It is a vicious cycle. During harvest time brokers offer us very little money. Unfortunately the proceeds are hardly enough to buy certified seeds and farm chemicals,” she said.

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This sad state of affairs has prompted the more than 5,000 farmers in Makima region to form a cooperative to jointly market their produce and ensure members get farm inputs at subsidised rates.

With the tagline "Operation Okoa Mkulima Makima", and guided by cooperative officials, they formed a farmers’ cooperative society where members can register with Sh200.

The cooperative targets to register the all such farmers within the county.

A founder of the cooperative, Nzau Mwendo, said the organisation would store green grams and identify buyers then start giving out farm inputs such as fertiliser, chemicals and equipment to paid for later.

“Farmers will also be able to get low interest loans to uplift themselves,” he said.

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Makima MCA, Philip Nzangi, who brought the farmers together, said the cooperative would improve the fortunes of farmers who expect another bumper harvest in January.

After last season’s harvest of 837 tonnes, the Embu County Agriculture department issued 5,000kg of early maturing green grams seeds to farmers, hoping to increase production by 35 per cent.

“From that input, we expect farmers to harvest an extra 300,000kg of green grams in 65 days after planting. About 2,500 households have benefited from the seeds,” said Agriculture executive Annie Nyaga.

Embu Countyco-operative societyGreen grams farmers