NAKURU. — As stakeholders in agriculture from different parts of the world converge in Nairobi for a global forum to deliberate on issues bedevilling farmers in Africa, the desire of Kenyan farmers is that they find headway to their hurdles in accessing profitable markets.
The week-long African Green Revolution Forum which kicked off in Nairobi on Monday seeks to look into challenges of farmers in the African continent and put forth action plans for solving them.
“Getting a market where you can sell your maize, potatoes, carrots or any other produce and making a profit is a big challenge to farmers,” said Margaret Munga, a member of the Mau Narok Rural Farmers Sacco in Rift Valley, Kenya. Many of the rural farmers who mainly depend on agriculture for their daily livelihood are finding it hard to sustain their farming due to low profits against high cost of farm inputs, she said.
“Helping farmers identify a good market and assist them access it is the best way to assist them reap the benefits of their farming activities,” noted the mixed small scale farmer who mainly grows carrots, potatoes, green peas and rears dairy cattle.
For Samuel Muraya, a hardworking farmer in Bahati, north of Nakuru County, finding a long-term solution to brokerage would give farmers a broad advantage to huge profits.
Muraya grows peanuts, tomatoes, carrots, kales, spinach, and passion fruits. He also has beehives and dairy cattle. He says his key customers are the brokers who buy in bulk at their own predetermined price.
“Brokers know how to make money out of farmers. They will bargain until you give up and sell to them at their own price,” he said. ‘It is better you sell to them at a throw-away price than make a total loss. You cannot afford to let go a customer because tomatoes cannot stay for too long before they are consumed,” he added.
“I consider throwing away rotten produce a painful loss. That is throwing away all the capital and the little profit you could make out of it,” he said.
He said the rural farmers should be educated on how to overcome the challenge of marketing the produce.
According to him, forming associations to collectively sell the produce is a good practice but ensuring accountability, transparency and sustainability is a major obstacle.
Kibet Korir, an agricultural specialist said rural farmers need not just information on good farming practices but also profitable markets.
“From my experience in training farmers, I have realised that they are willing and ready to adopt new ways of farming to boost the harvests,” he said.
“But the question is what happens after the high yields? Are they able to say they significantly increased their profits by capturing a well-paying market or they feel disappointed because they have to sell them at the same throw-away price?” he said.
Korir recognises the need to establish and efficiently implement policies that support farmers in accessing the regional markets such as in Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania.
A report by Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research noted that linking the farmers to the urban centres where they can access markets would stimulate agricultural productivity and further create employment.
In Africa, at least 80 percent of the population live in the rural areas and survive on farming activities, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
However, apart from limited access to profitable markets, they also face numerous challenges including fluctuating food prices, high-cost farm inputs, impacts of climate change and soil infertility, among others. — Xinhua.