Gorta-Self Help Africa wins €6.5m crop project in Kenya

EU-backed food production project focuses on production and processing of cassava

Irish charity Gorta-Self Help Africa has won a €6.5 million contract to run an EU-backed food production project in Kenya. The new project focuses on increasing the production and processing of high quality cassava.

Millions of people in developing countries rely on the root cassava for its carbohydrate content but the quality of the crop is often low. Cassava can tolerate temperature extremes and marginal soil, and it grows particularly well along Kenya’s low-lying coastal savannahs.

Farmers who sign up to the project will receive training in the production and processing of cassava and of other crops. Some 28,000 rural poor farmers will be targeted for the project, and more than half of them will be female.

Farmers will be given access to quality, disease-free planting materials, and 300 people will receive training in quality seed production. The project will also support research into improving cassava varieties.


Gorta Self-Help Africa will work with trade bodies, agricultural co-ops, and small and medium businesses to process and trade cassava.

The charity said the project would create 5,600 local jobs, and would help more than 140,000 people through the creation of jobs, the production of food and the development of farm businesses.

Coastal belt

It will focus on four regions, including Kenya's coastal belt. This area has been particularly affected by a fall in tourism numbers due to the threat of terrorism. An attack by al-Shabab militants on the Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi in 2013 resulted in the deaths of 67 people, while gunmen stormed Garissa University College in 2015 and killed 148 people, mostly students.

There have been several smaller attacks, and the terrorism threat has meant that an estimated 30,000 people have lost their jobs in the tourism sector in Kenya in recent years. Most job losses were along the coastal belt, an area which was also hit by a severe drought induced by the El Nino weather pattern.

The multimillion euro contract between Gorta-Self Help Africa and the European Union was signed in recent days. The programme is also receiving financial backing from the Walmart Foundation, a philanthropic arm of the US retailer.

Start-up finance

A Kenyan banking institution, Rafiki Micro-Finance, will work with the Irish charity to provide farmers with start-up finance and access to credit.

Gorta-Self Help Africa's chief executive Ray Jordan said the programme was a real development opportunity that would result in tangible employment.

“By adding value to the supply chain, farmers will earn more from one of their most important food crops.”

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times