by Peter Mutai
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Cultivation of
green grams that has been embraced by farmers in the semi-arid
eastern Kenya has proved a game changer thanks to enhanced food
security and income for households.
The leguminous crop
that was introduced two years ago in the vast plains of eastern
Kenya has given farmers long used to crop failure, hunger and
abject poverty, a new lease of life.
"I have made a bumper harvest this year and has paid my own
dowry since my jobless husband was unable to do so," Elizabeth
Mutuku, a green grams farmer in the southeastern Kenyan county
of Makueni, told Xinhua during a recent interview.
The mother of four has been growing green grams since 2013
but has never harvested more than one bag of the crop.
"I harvested five bags of the crop and sold three bags at one
dollar per kilogram that I used in paying for my outstanding
dowry payments," said Mutuku.
Mutuku said that she used her savings to buy grade cattle and
construct a chicken pen.
She also purchased learning materials for her school-going
She has been growing maize over the years and occasionally
intercropped with beans and green grams for domestic consumption
but has been experiencing low harvests until a program called
Feed the Future Kenya Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD)
was introduced in her locality.
The program that is implemented by the International Crops
Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) as a drought
tolerant crop component in a three-year program (2013-2018), has
led to the increased production of green grams in the recent
The 29 years old farmer now plans to lease additional land to
her one acre piece of land to enable her to buy grade chicken
with the money that she expect to realize during the coming 2019
harvest and also start saving money to care for tuition of her
children who are in middle school.
"I want to start saving school fees from green gram farming
in readiness for my son who will be completing his primary
school education next year," said Mutuku.
Catherine Mbili has bought a dairy cow, built animal feed
store, bought 40 chicken layers and is paying school fees for
her two college going children that to green grams farming in
the past two years.
"The program was introduced to us at a time when I was
contemplating dropping farming all together due to perennial
losses from maize and millet growing," said Mbili.
She stopped growing maize in the late 1990s due to negative
impacts of climate change and adopted pigeon peas, cowpeas,
millet and green grams.
Mbili said that since joining the AVCD program in 2014, she
has been realizing good harvest but this year’s harvest exceeded
the previous years.
Joseph Kimeu, a cereals retailer at Kathonzweni market for
the past 10 years, this is the first time that few green grams
consumers have been purchasing the commodity.
"I have been making good profit in the past three years but
this year seems the worst ever.
"I have to wait until October to sell my current stock," said
He revealed that he used to sell green grams at between 0.50
U.S. dollars - 0. 70 dollars per kilogram but this year’s sale
has dropped to 0.40 dollars a kilogram.
Kimeu said that due to the fact that the cereal is grown by
many farmers since it is the only cash and food crop in the
region, farmers require science based management approaches
after harvesting season.
"The cereal is easily infested by pests if it is not stored
well hence the need to improve its storage methods to help save
the harvest," said Kimeu.
Following the bumper harvest, market forums were convened in
Kitui and Makueni counties recently to negotiate on green gram
prices, quantity in supply and demand, delivery period as well
as propose marketing strategies to stabilize prices and enhance
the margins for farmers and other market intermediaries.
The meetings that were attended by farmers and leaders agreed
that the national government purchase the surplus green gram and
sell for school feeding program, food relief, military, police
and National Youth Training colleges.
Dr. Moses Siambi, ICRISAT’s Eastern and Southern Africa
Regional and Research Program Director noted that the program
that is funded at 4.5 million dollars is aimed at promoting
cereals and legumes that are not only climate resilient but are
also nutritious and offer an alternative to farmers in the
drylands that have very few other options.
"We started with 125,000 households who were given seeds with
improved agronomic practices, taught post harvest handling and
linked with the markets through farmers’ groups," Siambi told
"The over production this year is not a crisis since Kenya is
a net importer of 43,000 tons of green grams from Tanzania in
meeting its domestic need that is 143,000 tons every year," he
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