Despite this rising demand, the availability of sufficient quantities of bio-fortified seeds remains a challenge for smallholder farmers and aggregators like Tegemeo. Seed multiplication of bio-fortified grain is a viable solution to this challenge and this is currently underway thanks to the 2SCALE and Tegemeo partnership in collaboration with Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS). The partnership procured bio-fortified millet seed from the Kenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organization (KARLO) to initiate farmer-led solutions towards adequate quantities of bio-fortified seeds. Currently, 200 farmers are carrying out community seed multiplication of bio-fortified pearl millet on 80 hectares of land in Tharaka Nithi County.
The need for bio-fortification and improved sorghum and pearl millet
Price volatility and lack of affordable foods made from bio-fortified grain create nutrition deficiencies for most BoP consumers, making malnutrition a major public health concern. There are several sorghum and millet-based flours in the market, but none made from bio-fortified grain so far.
Previously, Tegemeo mainly aggregated for a single off-taker in the brewery industry but is now embarking on a diversification strategy. Peter Mutegi, Managing Director of Tegemeo Cereals Enterprise Ltd comments:
To align with the governments’ five-year National Food Fortification Strategic plan (NFFSP), this partnership seeks to enhance the development of nutritious flours from bio-fortified grain.
The partnership will also leverage on the success of one of 2SCALE’s prior business champions- Shalem Investments - in the marketing and distribution of fortified foods into BoP markets.
Building an innovative and inclusive business model
By diversifying markets, this partnership will create an avenue for more people, particularly unemployed women and youth, to get involved along the sorghum and pearl millet value chains. To increase and diversify employability, this partnership will among other strategies, train young women in pre-cooking techniques useful in boosting marketing of the bio-fortified flours. In addition, the partnership will sensitize the youth on the benefits of adopting high-yielding and bio-fortified, drought-tolerant varieties of pearl millet. This will promote inclusive businesses that serve the nutritional needs of vulnerable groups while also having a tremendous economic impact on smallholder farmers in the region.
According to Mr. Mutegi, malnutrition, particularly among children and expectant women is high in the target semi-arid counties of Tharaka Nithi, Kitui and Makueni. Introducing bio-fortified flours will help curb this whilst also benefiting the targeted smallholder farmers financially. BoP consumers have proven to be a viable and ready market for Tegemeo’s biofortified flours.
By December 2023 the Tegemeo and 2SCALE partnership seeks to reach 10,000 BoP consumers with affordable and nutritious sorghum and pearl-millet-based foods.