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Farmers find formula to reap from vegetables

Saturday September 21 2019

A section of Kabunge Commercial Village group members harvest vegetables they grow.

A section of Kabunge Commercial Village group members harvest vegetables they grow in a farm in Kiambu. According John Muya, the group’s chairman, selling their produce together has cushioned them from the effects of fluctuating food prices. PHOTO | WINNIE LELEI | NMG 

WINNIE LELEI
By WINNIE LELEI
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A group of farmers in Lari, Kiambu, have come together to reap from all areas of the agricultural value chain.

Known as Kabunge Commercial Village, the 30 farmers who grow indigenous African vegetables are turning around their lives.

Before the village was established, Christopher Kimunya, who grew sukuma wiki, cabbages and spinach, says he experienced a number of problems including crop failure, difficulty in accessing markets and transportation.

Members of the village, which was started eight years ago, decided to venture into indigenous vegetables after learning of their nutritional value from some NGOs.

Of Kimunya’s half-acre farm, a quarter is dedicated to an assortment of nutritious vegetables such as amaranth (terere), the spider plant (sagaa) and the night shade (managu).

Through the commercial village, the farmers now have access to markets in Nairobi and Tala in Kangundo.

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“We have been contracted by African Farms and Markets (AFMA), which enables us to sell all our produce in good time and in bulk,” says Kimunya.

The institution partners with smallholder farmers, providing them market.

The produce is harvested every evening in bundles weighing half a kilo and taken to designated picking points where, the marketing chairman of the group must be present to ensure that the bundles have the required weight, are free from pests and do not include other weeds.

EFFECTS OF FLUCTUATING PRICES

To ensure the smooth running of their operations, the marketing chairperson conveys the expected order for the day to the productions chairman, who then contacts the farmers to make the order.

“As the production chairperson, I am always aware of each farmer’s situation. I must be conscious of issues such as which vegetable each farmer has, when the crop will be ready for harvest and whether or not all farmers combined can meet a particular order,” says Kimunya.

According John Muya, the group’s chairman, selling their produce together has cushioned them from the effects of fluctuating food prices.

“Our contract buyer sets the buying price at a flat rate, enabling us to always fetch a fairly good price, come rain or shine,” he says.

Currently, the farmers sell a kilo of vegetables at Sh24, an amount they deem fair considering that it is peak season.

“A fixed or standardised rate is advantageous to the farmer because there are more months of availability than those of scarcity in the year,” says Gerald Watoro, a senior commercialisation and zone coordinator of Farm Concern.

Besides the ready market, the farmers have been able to overcome problems associated with transportation and the cost of spoilage.

Once the produce is harvested and handed over to the buyer, any loss incurred between harvest and the market is suffered by buyer.

Kimunya’s quarter-acre i farm earns him an average of Sh12,000 per season and another Sh4,000 from the sale of seedlings. He spends some Sh3,000 on seeds, fertiliser and water, enabling him to earn a decent living from the venture.