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Friday, 3 May 2013

Local cereal bank aims to supply grain to FAO

By Dennis Kipkirui
Sipili Cereal Bank is Self-Help Group that was formed in 2002 with the aim of providing food security to members. They do this by storing cereals and extend them as credit facilities to both members and non-members provided there is sufficient security.

The main activities of the group are to buy maize from members and other farmers at reasonable prices. They also store cereals at a fee to ensure food security during dry seasons. The bank has also applied for agency at the Kenya Seed Company so as to supply certified farm inputs to farmers in the area.

Since its inception 10 years ago, the group has managed to acquire a three acre piece of land in Sipili Centre. The land was purchased through the proceeds from cereal trade and member’s contribution at a cost of Ksh.500 000. They have also built a store at a cost of Ksh. 1.4 million. This was a tremendous move for the group after the German Embassy chipped in with Ksh. 600 000 to assist members construct the store.  

 The group has played an active role in ensuring food security in Laikipia County. It has assisted members to access food in the store during dry spells. It has also managed to provide farm inputs to farmers at a reasonable price. Last year it managed to safeguard the interests of farmers when the price of fertilizer was skyrocketing. The group went to Embu NCPB depot and bought fertilizers at cheaper price. They in turn sold to farmers and protected them from cartels. 

So far the group got a moisture meter   from the Grain Council of East Africa (GCEA). This will help them maintain the right quality of cereals in the store. They are also in the process of getting certification from the GCEA as a recognized grain warehouse. The GCEA has conducted inspections in the store and the group is waiting for their response. 

The chairperson of the bank Peter Mwati is optimistic that they will get the certification. “We have worked closely with them and hope that they will grant us. The certification is important to us as it will enable us sell our cereals to big organizations like the Food Agricultural Organization (FAO). We have done minor repairs here and there to ensure that we meet the standards,” Said Mwati. 

The chairperson is upbeat that if they get agency certificate from Kenya Seed Company and GCEA certification, life will never be the same again for the residents of Laikipia County. He sees his group as a God-send agent of transformation for the semi-arid land county.

Life for the group has, however, not been rosy. It has had its own fair share of challenges. Operation funds has affected their activities since of the funds went to purchase of the plot and construction of the store. Prolonged dry spells has also affected them. Given that they rely entirely on cereal food, drought stands in their path and the menace of elephants destroying mature crops since they need these cereals in their store to secure farmers. The middle men have also had field days in their operations since they creep into some of their members who desperately need money and purchase cereal from them at very low prices.

The group has a plan to acquire value adding machines that will enable them process maize meal. They estimate it to cost Ksh. 2 million. This will enable them go a long way of processing cereals to get human food and animal feeds. They are also planning to diversify to dairy sector. They are thinking of acquiring a milk cooler to preserve milk and sell them at reasonable prices that will economically empower the farmers. 

The ministry of Agriculture has given the group maize drier to help them dry the produce before storage. Plans are also underway to have the group work closely with the new co-operative society formed in Sipili which is expected to implement a two year project funded by The Ford Foundation.

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