Kenyan farmers sustain food supply amid COVID-19 pandemic, flood threats


Resilient Kenyan farmers have shrugged off floods and locust threats to keep food supply steady in the east African nation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kenya is currently experiencing heavy rains that have caused at least 194 deaths, displaced thousands and destroyed property in particular in western region, Rift Valley and at the Coast, according to Devolution minister Eugene Wamalwa.

But even as they cause destruction, the rains have brought good fortunes in other parts of the country, enabling crops to flourish.

The result is that farmers, who planted short-cycle crops like vegetables, onions, tomatoes and some fruits like melons as soon as the rains started in March, are currently harvesting, thus sustaining supplies in markets at a critical time.

From western Kenya to the capital Nairobi and the coast, supply of food has been considered adequate, enabling commodities to be affordable.

At Wakulima market in Nairobi, a spot check on Friday indicated that commodities like grains, tomatoes, onions, capsicum, vegetables and fruits are in plenty.

The market is the source of food consumed in Nairobi, with traders across the capital flocking it for commodities to resale in residential areas.

“Food is in great supply. We have no shortage currently, we only need more customers,” said Hellen Wanjiru, a trader at the market.

At a section of the market, disposed tomatoes and fruits lay in a heap waiting to be collected, an indication that the market was somehow overwhelmed with produce.

Prices have, however, rose marginally, acknowledged Wanjuri, adding they are still within affordable margins.

Grace Mutuku, a fresh produce trader in Komarock on the east of Nairobi, said the situation is much better than they expected.

“Due to the curfews and lockdowns, we had expected food prices to rise exponentially but here we are, things are better,” she said.

Food sold in Nairobi comes from different parts of the country including Nakuru in the northwest, Kajiado in the south and central and western parts of the country.

Despite cessation of movement into Nairobi, the government considers food producers and traders as essential service providers, which has kept the supply chains open.

“For the better part of this week and the previous one, I have been harvesting my traditional vegetables and selling to markets in western Kenya. I planted them as soon as the rains started and they did well. Business has been good,” said Geoffrey Ambuche, a farmer in Kitale.

Like hundreds of farmers in the region, he has also planted maize, which guarantees availability of the staple in the future.

“About this time we normally harvest and sell our avocados to exporters but with global markets shut, we are selling the produce in the local market,” said Patrick Ng’ang’a, an avocado farmer in Murang’a County, adding prices are low due to oversupply but it’s better than the produce going to waste.

As farmers in the east African nation enhance food supply, the threat of locust invasion still hangs over the east African nation.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) notes in its latest locust watch update that hopper bands have been reported in the northern parts of Kenya but hatching is yet to occur.

“In northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia, immature and mature swarms are still present where they are maturing and laying eggs. The current situation continues to represent an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in East Africa,” says FAO. Enditem

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