NGO seeks to cushion small-scale farmers from effects of Covid-19

Posted: July 22, 2020
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A French beans farmer from Foki Community Based Organisation gets advice from a MESPT technical assistant during a monitoring and evaluation visit at his farm in Loitoktok, Kajiado County.

A national organisation involved in the promotion of sustainable economic growth and employment for small holder farmers says it is putting in place measures to mitigate against disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic on the farming community.

The Micro Enterprises Support Programme Trust (MESPT) says the compounding effects in seeking to control the spread of the virus such as restricted movements and the curfew have caused significant challenges to the small holder farmers. Farmers now have only limited access to the markets and were incurring huge losses.

The organisation says immediate impacts tend to be more severe for high-value commodities, mostly perishable products, which are often produced by most smallholder farmers.

According to some stakeholders within the agricultural value chain constituting financiers and support groups, the horticultural sector is most affected. To mitigate and reduce the impact of the Covid-19, MESPT says it is working in collaboration with various other stakeholders to help limit the negative effect on grassroot farmers.

MESPT says it is offering various incentives and subsidies to help SME’s weather the current storm of market disruption.

“Some of the measures will be on flight charges and curbing the post-harvest losses. Collaborations are also being sought at the production level aimed at subsequently reverting the price cuts already being experienced by farmers. MESPT support also targets equipment of farmers with personal protective equipment/gear at the collection centres and value addition incentives to enhance the shelf life of surplus farm produce not absorbed due to closures,” explains Ann Ngugi, the organization’s corporate affairs manager. 

This follows numerous farmer concerns of getting stranded following travel restrictions and the ongoing curfew.  

“Our interviews with small holder farmers and SMEs from the 12 counties that the Micro Enterprises Support Programme Trust (MESPT) has established operations in and particularly those catering for the export horticulture market are most affected. This is because of borders closure and limited incoming shipments and air cargo to the lucrative consumer countries which has led to markets shutdowns. The most affected market is Dubai while Europe is still accessible but not steady due to the limited cargo flights which has also made flight charges to skyrocket,” notes MESPT.

“The SMEs in the export business of fruits and vegetables are really struggling to keep business afloat as their profits are being eaten into by the costly flights. The trickle down effect of this is that the prices of buying the produce from the small holder farmers has gown down. If the markets continue to be so unstable in the next 30 days, the SMEs are also contemplating layoffs of some of their employees. The social distancing measure has significantly contributed to loss of jobs as most casual labourers are no longer going to work in the shambas as was the norm. If the worst happens, most of the small holder farmers producing premium products for the export markets will exit since they can no longer make money from their ventures,” says MESPT.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed serious gaps within Kenya’s food systems, food security, and agricultural livelihoods, according to Dave Muumbi, an entrepreneurship trainer. He says development agencies have stopped going to rural areas exposing Kenya’s dependence on well-wishers, and lack of market for farm produce leading to agricultural projects halt.

“One major solution is to create contract farming where farmers receive farm inputs and produce is paid for and picked at the farm gate. Those in urban centres need the food therefore the Government should invest in appropriate infrastructure that will adequately support the farming community and the agricultural value chain,” notes Dave.