Farmers in Kenya count losses as rains disrupt transport, bring diseases

November 16, 2017

Nairobi:  Hundreds of farmers across Kenya are counting losses as heavy rains render roads impassable, making it difficult for them to sell their produce. 

The farmers are mainly those growing fresh produce like potatoes, maize, fruits like mangoes, tomatoes, vegetables and keeping livestock that includes dairy cows. 

Most farming in the East African nation takes place in the rural areas where majority of the roads are not tarmacked. 
Therefore, whenever it rains heavily as it is happening now, the roads get muddy and become impassable for vehicles, carts and even animals that are used to transport farm produce. 

A majority of farmers are currently stuck with their produce on the farm, with most of it like tomatoes and fruits rotting. 
The worst-hit areas are those in western Kenya and in breadbasket regions of the Rift Valley, where the main economic activity is farming. 

Simon Kibowen, a potato farmer in Kuresoi in Nakuru, is one among the hundreds of farmers wishing the ongoing rains would cease, albeit for a few days. 

"I have bags of potatoes in my house and another produce is rotting on the farm because buyers cannot reach me," he said Wednesday. 

Kibowen's farm is located in the interior of the agriculturally rich region and all the roads, as in many other rural areas, are covered in black cotton soil. 

"Normally traders come with lorries to my farm to buy the produce but right now the vehicles are 20 km away at the trading centre. If I want to sell to them, I must ferry the produce there," he said. 

"In the last two weeks I have been able to sell two bags of potatoes weighing 110 kg each at 12 U.S. dollars each after I hired a donkey and ferried the produce to the centre. But despite all the hustle, I only made 3 dollars profit. It was not worth it," he said, noting that he has about 40 bags left. 

Prices of the produce have declined to a low of 1,000 dollars per bag as traders buy from desperate farmers seeking to avoid losses. 

In Elgeyo Marakwet, a region where people cultivate oranges and mangoes, farmers are hugely frustrated as their produce rots due to bad roads. 

As in other parts of rural Kenya, the roads leading to farms in the remote area have become impassable, with vehicles ferrying farm produce getting stuck in the mud. 

"This is usually the time most farmers start harvesting their mangoes but they cannot reach the market that include Nairobi. Several lorries that had come to ferry the produce to Nairobi are stuck in the region," said Grace Najamo, a teacher in the area, who also farms tomatoes. 

Najamo noted that mangoes are now going for as low as 0.01 dollars as farmers have no market. In Nairobi, the mangoes would fetch about 0.08 dollars each. 


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