Enormous Market Potential for Kenyan Vegetables

Published on: 09:04AM Nov 13, 2012

We left Nairobi on Friday morning for Lake Naivasha region and a stop off at the a beautiful viewpoint in the Rift Valley.

Rift Valley

After that, we continue southeast to a vegetable farming project near Naivasha. The project is helping smallholder farmers by strengthening them in training and Extensions, linking them to private sector markets, such as supermarket chains, and offering access to new lending vehicles. The project grows 13 different crops, with the top being potatoes, carrots and cabbage. In Kenya, vegetables can be grown year round.

Smallholders grow 80% of the produce for Kenyan consumers, and with 1 million new mouths to feed each year, vegetable demand is on the uptick. By forming larger groups of small farmers, these farmers can command better prices and negotiate for seed and other inputs. The group brings samples of their vegetables to the supermarket. If there is a contract, the supermarket then works with the group on a planting schedule around demand needs.

The project is also teaching better agronomic skills. For instance, agronomists introduced crop rotation to the farmers, and they increased their potato production from 8 tons per hectare to 35 tons per hectare. The farmers also have problems with potato blight, and are now spraying by hand. Fertilizer is a combination of manure, lime or gypsum and DAP or NPK. Inputs cost about $282 for a quarter of an acre. Vegetable farmers can sell their product for about $585 per quarter acre. Farmers get 65c per pound of potato they sell.

egetable farmer photo

"We used to have problems with marketing, and we would plant our crops not knowing where to sell," says Esther Waithira Chege, Marketing Chairlady of the vegetable group. "By pooling together, we have pushed out the middle man and can talk directly to the supermarkets."

"We are now doing business farming, not farming to plant a crop and feed the waste to animals because we have no market," Waithira Chege says.

Most of the increased profits from the vegetable group will be used for school fees and some for savings.

Learn more about my trip to AFrica. Read my travellogue.>>