Farmers Pay Dearly for Fragmented Food System in Kenya
by Florence Gichoya
“We [can only] hope that tomorrow will be better than today,” says Elizabeth Thande, a farmer in Limuru.
Thande and her family have been floriculturists for years. Venturing into vegetable farming, however, brought her face to face with Kenya’s frustrating food system. Food system refers to the process food products go through from the farm to the plate.
Thande grows vegetables on her 18-acre Kisemeti Oakland Farm in Limuru. Like many smallholder farmers in Kenya, she and her daughter Mumbi are grappling with huge post-harvest losses and lack of market for their indigenous vegetables. They grow amaranth (terere), African nightshade (managu), jute mallow (mrenda) and kunde (cowpeas). They also farm exotic vegetables such as kales, cabbages, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli and Ethiopian kale.
The global Covid-19 pandemic has increased demand for indigenous vegetables, which help boost the body’s immune system.
Before the pandemic, the farm would sell three tonnes of vegetables per day, but now Thande and Mumbi struggle to sell even one tonne every two days. Their main clients are local supermarkets and a few hotels that have reopened. “It’s hard to store perishables and sustaining the product is expensive,” Mumbi says.
Photo courtesy of Ivko.