This technical brief presents steps involved in setting up
and running a cereal bank. It is based on the actual
experience of Nthunguni Community Managed Cereal Bank
in Makueni District, Kenya.
What is a cereal bank?
A cereal bank is a community-based institution involving a
village or a group of villages that stocks and manages the
operations of acquiring, pricing and supplying grain. The
purpose of a cereal bank is to improve food supply in
hungry season, especially during extended drought periods.
The local community has to decide what sort of cereal bank
would best answer its needs.
Grain is bought either from the village, or from elsewhere
when the prices are low, just after harvest; it is stored until
it is needed, and then sold to the villagers at reasonable
price. Everyone benefits. The villagers are paid a better
price for their grain, when the market prices are low, and
they then have money in their pockets to pay their taxes,
school fees, and other expenses. When the market prices
are high and granaries are empty, they can buy grain from
Figure 1: Mwende Musau aged
11, sitting by the community
group managed seed bank
holding sorghum. Photo: Practical
Action / Zul.
the cereal bank at a price they can afford. Since the bank
is in the village, no one has to travel long distances to buy grain and then transport it back
home. Thus, time is saved as well as transportation money.
Setting up the cereal bank
There is no blueprint when setting up the cereal
bank.. However, there are fundamental steps to be
Decisions on setting up a cereal bank must be based
on a commonly felt need in the village such as grain
shortage during extended drought periods. Since the
whole village must own the store, it is important to
have adequate consultations with all categories of
people in the village on:
the kind of store they need,
location of the store,
getting the initial grain to start the
Several village consensus-building meetings are
essential depending on the size of the village.
Considerations when selecting the
kind of store
A temporary store can be built by
villagers themselves; the materials
can be found locally and it will be
cheap to build. But it will not be very
sturdy and will need regular repairs;
grain losses are generally higher than
from permanent stores because it not
easy to protect against insects and
On the other hand a permanent store
(made from blocks and cement) can
last a long time but are very
expensive to build; they will be
subject to fewer losses from insects
Borrowing or renting stores may be
cheaper than building one but the
owner may suddenly need the
building, causing losses or problems.
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