The ordeal of the local farmers are numerous and wide-ranging; they include lack of market, control of the value chain by cartels, politics, weather variance and lately pests. Ultimately the farmers bear the burden of brokers’ manipulation and they have no voice in the distribution and pricing of their yields.
The Nakuru County Crops’ Officer, Fredrick Owino said it’s unfortunate that the entire agricultural value- chain was controlled by none farmers who dictate the prices right away from the farm gate, to supermarkets, hotels, hawking and profitable urban markets.
Owino said value chains were meant to increase production efficiency so that the actors could deliver maximum value for the least possible cost.
However, the farmers’ activities are dictated by cartels, who have control of almost everything and the producer has unfortunately been reduced to a mere pawn.
Mrs. Agnes Rono, a vegetable farmer in Rongai sub-county, concurred with him when she admitted that the urban women who purchased vegetables from her farm in most cases dictated the prices, and if she disagreed they threaten to blacklist her farm. When she was asked why she doesn’t sell her vegetables at the town’s big market, she narrated a comical but distressing story.
She said last week, she tried to bypass the vendors and took her vegetables to Afraha Stadium where the Wakulima market was relocated to reduce congestion due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Immediately she arrived, two young men approached and offered to assist her to get a place to display the vegetables. However, they told her she might be arrested if she doesn’t bribe the County askaris (the officers who man the market to ensure order) and within a short time, they brought one. The askari graciously promised to allocate her a strategic space if only she could give him Sh200 after the sells to which she accepted.
The hawkers who had welcomed her offered to assist her sell the vegetables faster so that she would go home before dusk and she conceded. They picked a number of bundles and told her they were going to sell to kiosk owners and bring her money. However, they disappeared never to be seen.
She approached a different askari and requested to be assisted to locate the hawkers who had vanished with her produce. He became nasty and demanded to know who had allowed her to sell her vegetables on that spot and threatened to arrest her. She pleaded for mercy and luckily the one who had allocated her space for a fee appeared and rescued her.
However, by the time she looked behind all the two sacks of vegetables had inexplicably ebbed away. But the ‘kind’ askari who had allowed her to sell demanded his payment, which she parted with. She forlornly walked home and swore never to dip her luck on uncharted waters.
The Chairman of South Rift Farmers’ Association, Justus Monda said their organizations were toothless since they have not been empowered to operate and they even lacked recognition. He added that the Wakulima markets were controlled by all manner of cartels and rent-sinkers who allocated space to people who do not even own land after being bribed.
He urged the government to dismantle the cartels and several interest groups who purported to represent farmers at various meeting without having been elected or appointed by them. Apart from that, he said the value chain of farmers’ was snatched away after the collapse of the gigantic Kenya Farmers’ Association (KFA) which not only handled the marketing of their products but sold affordable and durable implements. Also, he said they sold to farmers genuine seeds and guided them on pest controls.
But Monda said currently, the sweat of the farmer was enriching the corrupt cartels while punishing hardworking producers. In addition, he said each crop has a wider range of controllers who were in cahoots with vendors countrywide and they have completely blocked the farmers from doing any form of direct sells.
He said the brokers have destabilized the country’s hope of achieving food security because when farmers kept on making losses, they do the most sensible thing- reduce the acreage and number of dairy animals.
He added that Molo and Njoro sub-county were the leading producers of milk in the county but a number of farmers gave up the struggle and now the area is full of dejected farmers.
However, he said it was not only farmers in Nakuru who have been reduced to paupers but the story is the same from tea, maize and sugarcane growers and the major cause was the penetration of outsiders who controlled their value chain.
He added that there was a need for agricultural policymakers to understudy international Farmers Association such as Land’O Lakes, which not only marketed but did value addition to their farmers’ produce.
By Veronica Bosibori