Regional food sovereignty needs farmers who have access to health and education. Loubna Sadiki from Morocco, a representative of NextGEN, reports on a research trip to Nairobi, organized by the Kenyan organization, Africa Adaptation Villages.
At the end of 2013, I traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, and worked on a research project with a local Food Security organization called Africa Adaptation Villages. Our project consisted of trying to answer many of Nairobi residents (and other areas), who wonder why prices of fruits and vegetables keep going up while more than 80% of Kenya’s land is fertile. We decided to conduct our own research to find out why. We chose Busia, a western rural area of Nairobi. We lived for few days with farmers and interviewed them: that way we could understand their daily work and challenges they face to get to the core of what causes these produce prices to rise.
We came up with the following conclusions:
Reason for product low prices: The people of Busia are motivated people faced with financial challenges that are not in their favor to take their projects to the next level. They work hard to barely just survive with their basic needs (food and a home). Many don’t have access to health. This takes them away from focusing on creating sustainable ventures that will get them out of poverty and support the demand to have a better access to affordable fruits and vegetables.
Other issues Farmers face:
Climate change: Changing weather patterns have caused the seasonal patterns to be unpredictable which doesn’t help in planning for planting and harvesting.
Growing families: The culture in Busia (and in many other rural areas), is to marry more than one woman and have many kids who would help the father in the farming field. Yet, this farmer has only 2 to 5 acres of land they inherited, and will be divided and passed on to his sons after he passes away. Inheriting a small portion of land doesn’t give a farmer many options to grow enough to sell in the market.
Nicholas Balongo, founder of the African Adaptation Villages, and I had the opportunity to spend a whole day with the farmer, Joseph, so that we can better understand his daily work at the farm, and his time spent with his family once he comes back home. We witnessed the challenges he goes through daily, including having a few small portions of land divided in different areas, where you have to walk long distances to.
In addition, his sons are all very young (under the age of 10) and not old enough to help their father in the fields. What’s more, the farmer highlighted that he is “not able to grow different varieties of crops that he wished to grow”, simply because his land is not big enough. His harvest at the end of the year is only sufficient to feed his family, and sell the rest in the nearer market to be able to grow other crops for next year.
Joseph’s example just shows us that many people like him don’t have their basic needs met, such as health and access to education (they need to pay fees and school material for school). Yet, their land is the most fertile where they can grow as many fruits and vegetables that the Nairobi and other Kenyan cities are demanding and the big supermarket chains are complaining of a lack of supply.
In addition, farmers in rural areas face lot of challenges such as rural to urban migration, no existence of governmental support, and so on.
We started with the idea of working on creating a platform where a better connection and communication of demand and supply would be present. This would help farmers to have an idea about the demand and prices in different locations. It requires many steps as most of the farmers are not yet used to technology and not aware of new business management tools. The next step is to gather all the farmers together for a better understanding of the program and to start training to help them work in a collaborative way so that it will be a win-win situation for them, as well as for the super market chains.
See also members of GEN wh work in Kenya on Food Sovereignty: G-BIACK – Grow Biointensive Agriculture Center of Kenya in Thika, MOOF Africa – Mount Kenya Organic Farming in Nanyuki (www.moofafrica.com) and OTEPIC (www.otepic.org) in Kitale.