In May 2020, InnovAfrica partners carried out a monitoring and data collection survey in Kangundo sub-county and Kirinyaga county to gauge the performance of the Brachiaria – dairy value chain. The partners, scientists from KALRO had an opportunity to collect information on the impact of  COVID-19 on different farming activities at Machakos and Kirinyaga counties in Kenya.

In Kangundo sub-County, farmers indicated that they experienced challenges with marketing of their farm produce, with horticultural crops such as banana, vegetables, citrus and avocado taking the biggest hit. The demand for farm produce is low which sometimes forces them to sell at half the price. Although the price of milk has remained relatively stable, some farmers are getting more credit requests from their customers.

Farmers had this to say when asked how they are coping with the challenges:

I have to work extended hours in my farm since I am unable to sell my farm produce to pay for casual workers who help me in my farm. They need cash after a day’s work but I do not have it.’’ Mrs Magdalene Mutua, a female house headed farmer from Kitwii location, Kangundo.

The Village Knowledge Centre manager, Ms Miriam Makato interviewing Mrs Magdalene Mutua, on Brachiaria grass performance in her farm in Kangundo

I do not have any challenges in marketing milk since our Dairy Cooperative does that for us. I have employed permanent labourers that I pay at the end of the month. Since the day the curfew was imposed from 7:00pm to 5:00am to reduce the spread of the COVID -19 pandemic, I have adjusted my milking and delivery time. Mrs Makewa, a teacher and medium-scale dairy farmer from Katwanyaa, Kangundo produces 140 litres of milk from 10 cows.

Mrs Makewa, in her zero-grazing unit

The demand is very low. I sold my excess Brachiaria hay on credit’ Bernard Mutinda, Brachiaria farmer from Kitwi, Kangundo.

All are wearing masks and maintaining social distance to prevent infection from COVID -19

Farmers in Kangundo are unable to access Nairobi city, which is the major market for their farm produce due to the lockdown. The public transport which farmers depend on to transport their produce are not allowed to leave or enter the city.

The open-air markets at Tala and Kangundo urban centres were closed as precautionary measures against the spread of the Covid-19 disease due to their proximity to Nairobi. Nairobi has recorded over 80% of COVID-19 infections in Kenya. This has led to a rise in roadside marketing of farm produce in a bid to bridge production and marketing gaps in the wake of the pandemic.

Farmers selling their farm produce along the road side at Kangundo County

In the lower region of Kirinyaga County, farmers have formed co-operatives that market their farm produce that includes horticultural crops.

Unlike in Kangundo, Kirinyaga County co-operatives are able to aggregate large volumes of produce and transport them to Nairobi using large trucks. In addition,, the open-air markets that sell agricultural produce, are operational.

Mrs Racheal Mithamo admiring her banana in Kimbimbi location, Kirinyaga County

Mrs. Rachael Mithamo, a Brachiaria farmer who also grows bananas says,  ‘If I want to sell my bananas, I make a booking for the date two weeks in advance; then harvest my bananas and deliver to the collection centre nearby’