by Robert Manyara
Eight years ago, Kenyan farmer Margaret Munga would sell a kilogram of carrots through middlemen at 0.11 U.S. dollars. Now, the small scale farmer from Mau Summit in Njoro, Nakuru County, about 190 kilometers northwest of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, cannot let go of her produce for a price of less than 0.66 dollars, even many other carrot farmers in the East African country decry of losses as a result of increasing cost of production.
Munga is a member of the Mau Narok Farmers Sacco, a local association with a membership of more than 600 farmers. They collect carrots from farmers and sell them to wholesale traders in Uganda.
Through the Sacco which is established in 2012, the small scale farmer, who also serves as a treasurer for the association, says the farmers are able to negotiate for good prices.
“Farmers get leverage when they have a unified voice in marketing their produce,” says Munga.
However, she notes the harvests must be of good quality so that they can be competitive in the agricultural market, where brokers seek to reap huge profits through buying from farmers at a low price and sell at exaggerated prices.
Getting access to information about good agricultural practices that are effective in yielding high-quality produce is a major issue that the Sacco addresses.
“A Sacco not only works to market the produce but recommends to farmers institutions where they can be trained on how to improve their yields,” she says, adding the Sacco is aimed at increasing the farmers’ income, and giving them tips on sustainable agriculture is a priority.
According to her, without the Sacco she could still be selling the carrots at a loss since brokers make frequent visits to farms, providing a seemingly quick and easier alternative market for farmers.
With the Sacco, the farmers’ carrots are collected twice a week and transported to Uganda where Munga says prices are favorable, thus can bring good returns.
For a kilogram, they could sell for a price ranging between 0. 66 U.S. dollars and 0.82 U.S. dollars depending on the season.
Munga says for local farmers, to form associations or cooperatives for joint business and share advanced farming methods is a good way to achieve long-term success.
Over the years, Kenyan farmers producing carrots, potatoes and maize have worried about finding markets where they can sell their produce at good prices. They have complained over exploitation by middlemen who take advantage of scarce direct links between farmers and the customers.
“Small scale farmers in the country work extremely hard but still they suffer poverty because they do not make profits from their produce,” says Pauline Maina, an officer in the Ministry of Agriculture who also is in charge of programs aimed at training farmers on agribusiness.
Official figures show less than 25 percent of Kenyan population make a living in agricultural activities. Thus, Maina says Saccos are key to promoting food security in the country as they can bring good returns to this population.
Maina says the Kenyan government is helping farmers obtain methods and skills concerning marketing their agricultural produce.
“It is important to consider the marketing strategy so that the value do not end up in the hands of middlemen,” says Jonathan Kimuge, an agricultural expert.
Kimuge says farmers not only need to know how to increase yields but also have a sustainable and profitable market for their produce to be able to improve their livelihood. Enditem