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Kenya: How much relief can Purchase for Progress bring? (IPS)

Mourid Abdi Dolal and Wilson Rotich are both small-scale farmers who grow staple crops. But while Mr. Dolal sells his produce at the local village market, Mr. Rotich farms to feed the growing number of refugees in Kenya.

Mr. Rotich is from Kenya’s Rift Valley Province. He has a one hectare farm in Transmara village where he practices crop rotation with maize, beans and a couple of other leguminous plants. He used to make very little profit. Then he heard of the World Food Programme’s Purchase for Progress, or P4P project.

These days, he can sell his yield to the World Food Programme, or WFP, at the national market rate. It’s about five times more than what he can earn selling it locally. For every successful harvest, Mr. Rotich puts aside a share of the yield, which he sells to WFP through smallholder-friendly tenders. According to WFP, this is a new approach which sources relief food from local farmers instead of importing it from overseas.

Mr. Rotich says, “WFP officers told us to form farmer organisations through which they would [buy] our farm yields. This has helped my family because I am able to pay school fees and even foot hospital bills when one of us falls sick.”

Rose Ogolla is the public information officer for WFP Kenya. She says, “The project is meant to shore up the relief food supply chain as well as make agriculture attractive by offering farmers a ready market.” She explains that this is done through a contract or tender with farmers.

To be eligible, a farmer needs to be legally registered with a cooperative organisation. He or she must be able to generate 56 metric tonnes of food from their small-scale farm, have proper storage facilities and a bank account.

But P4P does not reach or benefit all farmers. Mourid Abdi Dolal is a pastoralist in the North Eastern Province. He says he has not benefited from the P4P project because it has not reached this Province. This region is home to a growing number of drought refugees in the country and from Somalia.

Mr. Dolal has recently begun practicing small-scale horticulture in his drought-stricken Dertu village. He is able to harvest reasonable quantities of kale, tomatoes and cowpeas. But they only provide him with a small income, since he sells his produce to villagers at throw-away prices.

He says, “I would be happy if WFP reached out to us with subsidies because my village is about 50 kilometres away from the Dadaab refugee camp.” Currently there are about 400,000 people at Dadaab, the majority of whom have fled the drought in Somalia. Mr. Dolal says, “Our village is feeling the pressure due to a surge in displaced people fleeing from the drought.”

Ann Maina is advocacy coordinator with Africa Biosafety Network. Referring to Purchase for Progress, she says, “This is a good initiative because it encourages a home grown solution to the food crisis in the country and could prevent the country from importing maize laced with GMOs.”

Dr. Alfred Mutua is Kenya’s Official Government Spokesman and Public Communications secretary. He is not sure whether the country has the ability to feed the growing number of displaced people, despite the success of the Purchase for Progress project.

Kenya is facing another threat. The United States government is preparing to pull out of the WFP relief programme, which may mean a 40 percent drop in funding for relief food.