Being a Rural Farmer in Africa (Kenya)
We always see people getting rich from selling their farm produce; men and women getting featured on TV because they became rich from keeping many cows and selling milk, some whose hens lay several eggs a day. You become inspired and decide to follow in their footsteps – after all, you have a farm you’ve always wanted to use – but things don’t go so well for you. What could have happened? Did you do something wrong somewhere? We are about to find out exactly why you aren’t as successful as them.
One of the major problems faced by rural farmers is poor roads. Many parts of rural Kenya have terrible roads which become impassable when it rains. Some roads are on very harsh terrain, and vehicles cannot pass due to fear of ruining them. So as a farmer, how are you going to get your produce to the market? A helicopter would be great, but that’s wishful thinking. Your produce, for example, vegetables, will take a lot of them on the road and by the time they reach the market they will have lost freshness, and no one wants sickly vegetables. You will have to sell them at a throwaway price or take them back home. Either way, you will experience a huge loss.
Here's what we suggest as Mashinani Farmers enterprise, consider if ten to twenty of you farmers group together and decide to collect all your produce in one location that is conveniently accessible to you all. Then, you would only need to hire or use one pickup truck or lorry to drive all your produce to the market. This way each farmer does not have to pay individually for the cost to transport their products to the market but can share the cost of transportation with other producers hence saving up cost on transportation.
Climate change is also an enemy to the rural farmer. Too much sun will cause plants to wither and die. Animals will lack food, and their produce will go down, they may even die of starvation. Too much rain will cause plants not to grow, or destroy the crops on the farm. As a country, this is what we get nowadays; many months of harsh sun followed by many months of heavy rainfall. It leads to flooding or soil erosion, and if you are affected as a farmer, you are doomed.
That is unless you decide to change your farming tactic. Consider if you decide to use a greenhouse for example, whatever you plant inside would be protected from the harshness of weather conditions. With a greenhouse, you can control the growing conditions for your plants, minimize water lost due to evaporation and even protect the plants against pests and diseases that could affect them if the crops were grown in the open.
“A woman’s place is in the kitchen” is the mentality most people still have especially in the rural parts. Men do not want women to be more successful than them, and they would go as far as forbidding them from doing anything to uplift their status, even if the men would benefit from it. Women in rural Kenya face discrimination, and they would most likely be sneered at if they do large scale farming and earn from it. To them, it is the man who should do the work while his wife waits to receive a small portion of the profits. Unfortunately, some of them disappear until they run out of money when they come back to their wives.
When everyone else is selling the same product, its price will go down. This is a common case in Kenya, especially with maize farming. Many farmers in rural Kenya plant maize with the hopes that the government will buy it. But we see so many cases on TV of silages being full and trucks full of maize parked outside. Their only option then is to lower the price just to get rid of it, and although they are encouraged to plant different crops, they rather keep on planting the same.
Sadly, the government isn’t doing much to help. As a rural farmer, you could find other ways to boost your income. You also need to plant something which is less common, taking care of the environment, and letting women work too. Maybe then things will improve for you and your community.