Small-scale farmers in 12 counties are set to benefit from a multimillion-shilling European Union (EU) funded project that aims at enhancing market access and competitiveness of Kenya’s plant-based products through the adoption of international standards and improved food safety regulations.

The Market Access Upgrade Programme (MARKUP) will boost and expand agricultural exports both regionally and internationally.

The four-year project will be implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido) at a cost of $3.7 million (Ksh425.5 million).

Some 1,500 small-scale farmers in Nakuru, Bungoma, Busia, Homa Bay, Siaya, Trans Nzoia, Uasin-Gishu, Taita-Taveta, Kwale, Makueni, Machakos and Kajiado counties will directly benefit from the project.

They will be empowered to enhance the quality and safety standards of a select crop value chain.

Mango, passion fruit, groundnuts, macadamia, spices, herbs, tea, coffee, and horticultural products are among the targeted value chains under the MARKUP project.

Farmers will also get extension services, training on good agricultural practices, capacity building on inspection and testing and certification systems, which will address the gaps within the supply chains. Apart from improved quality, the project will increase the production volumes of selected products.

Increased quality and volume of produce will boost foreign exchange earnings for Kenya as well as improve the social-economic conditions of farmers.

“The project will support the horticulture sector to ensure that products meet market requirements,” said the EU Head of Cooperation, Dr Hubert Perr. Other implementing partners include the International Trade Centre (ITC), The German Technical Cooperation (GIZ), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis), Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD), Kenya Bureau of

Standards (Kebs), the the Ministries of Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries, and Trade and Cooperatives.

Institutions such as Kephis, Kebs and HCD will ensure that all agricultural products meet export and domestic market requirements, and are safe for public consumption.

EU head of agriculture Myra Bernardi said the project would benefit stakeholders, farmers, traders, and government institutions, across the targeted value chains.

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National coordinator Andrew Edewa added that MARKUP would also employ technology to attract youth towards the project.

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