The first ever certified fresh farm produce shop in Naivasha dubbed ‘Vasha Green” has been launched in Naivasha with the aim to help local farmers tap into the ever growing demand for safe food products in the country.
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Naivasha Landscape Programs Coordinator, Caroline Njiru said the project which started in 2018 is aimed at alleviating poverty and creation of jobs while also at the same time promoting environmental conservation.
While noting that lack of good agriculture agricultural practices is a threat to biodiversity, Njiru said WWF who are funding the project seek to empower the farmers to adopt best practices through proper and sustainable utilization of available limited resources.
Ms. Njiru said the project which had now become a reality will enable farmers to have a ready market and cold storage produce and in so doing increase their profits margins through market linkages.
She noted that majority of farmers from the region in the past lost 50 per cent of their produce before reaching the market adding that the green shop will help them address post-harvest loss challenges.
Head of Performance Contracting at the Agriculture & Food Authority (AFA) Ms. Trixie Akinyi, said WWF in collaboration with the AFA and other stakeholders have trained farmers on various aspects of sustainable farming including sourcing for safe farm inputs, plant health and environmental sustainability that culminate into the production of safe food.
She noted that the project is a major achievement in the quest for healthy living and sustainability as far as food safety is concerned.
One hundred and forty-six (146) farmers have benefited from the program so far and have been awarded KS1758 certification, a standard for food safety issued by the Ministry of Agriculture after undergoing rigorous training.
Kenya Standard 1758:2016 (KS 1758) is a code of practice for the horticulture industry in Kenya which stipulates the hygienic and safety requirements during the production, handling and marketing of flowers and Ornamentals, fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Akinyi also said the initiative was driven by the need to create and promote sustainable production and consumption practices in the country and seeks to take advantage of the structured market systems already in place like supermarkets to avert the short and long-term health hazards brought about by the consumption of unsafe food.
She added that the government through the ministry has put in place enough measures to safeguard the safety of food in the country through training of farmers on the best farming practices and sensitization programs aimed at equipping them with the latest knowledge in matters of food production.
On his part, Chief Executive Officer of Bureau Veritas Group which was tasked with certification of all the 146 farmers Mr. Cyprian Kabbis said the KS1758 mark of quality and code of practice will scale up compliance in issues dealing with plant health, food safety, workers` health and safety and environmental management for their produce.
He added that the local KS1758 mark of quality which is benchmarked and recognized on international standards will help farmers enhance market access locally and as well as increase their exports globally.
The lead consultant with Global Link Agriculture Mr. Ian Edewa called on farmers to embrace safe farming practices citing the use of unregulated pesticides as a danger towards sustainability in the sector while at the same time urging proper handling and disposal of agriculture chemical waste management.
John Maina a farmer and a beneficiary of the program said the project has bridged the gap that was brought about by lack of a proper and ready market for their produce.
Maina also noted that lives of farmers have hugely transformed thanks to the initiative saying it has broadened their market scope as Naivasha based hotels will now be sourcing for fresh farm produce from the newly launched Vasha green shop.