It was a beehive of activity on Saturday, 31st of July 2021 as the Kiambu County Harvest Festival entered its second day at the Nairobi Farmers Market along Kiambu road. The three-day event is organized by Kenya Climate Innovation Centre in partnership with the Nairobi Farmers Market through the Agribiz programme funded by the European Union Delegation in Kenya and the Danish Government. The Kes 5.1bn project currently under implementation in eight counties seeks to support over 2,000 women and youth-led agribusinesses by developing their capacity, financing, and linking them to markets to create 17,000 jobs in five years. Speaking during the event Kiambu Governor, H.E. Dr. James Nyoro, an agricultural economist by profession, and a former government advisor on agricultural policy highlighted the need for making agribusiness appealing to young people as the sector has the potential to alleviate youth unemployment. He also challenged farmers and traders to embrace value addition to increase their incomes.
This being the first event of its kind by KCIC, plans are underway to move to the other 7 counties and to hold them regularly. This does not exclude the counties where the Agribiz programme is not in operation as participating traders in this event had products from as far as Busia and Meru counties.
In my visit to the market, I engaged a few of the traders and exhibitors and compiled the following brief description of their enterprises.
Vizuri Vitamu started operations in December 2020 by two sisters, a lawyer, and a marketer, who describe themselves as ‘farmers by accident’ farm at their home in Thika and source some of their products from Meru. They specialize in roots and tubers such as sweet potatoes, arrow roots and yams but have now expanded to include fruits and vegetables.
Urban Smart Gardeners is a youth-led enterprise that designs and installs innovative farming technologies such as hydroponics, cone and hanging gardens among others. The JKUAT-trained horticulturalists say that they have experienced an upsurge in interest in their products as services as people seek to produce their own food.
Mind Bridge Farm Value for Life trains farm workers in courses such as livestock and crop husbandry, record keeping and marketing skills. The founder and director of the Githunguri-based enterprise challenges farmers to hire trained workers as their costly investments could go down the drain for failure to hire skilled workers.
Thorium Organic Foods specialises in production and marketing of organic foods to enhance the quality of lives and match the changing lifestyles. The founders have now embarked on training and contracting farmers on organic farming and certifying organic products.
Mamaz Spices established in 2020 and based in Kinoo, specialises in spices such as hot chilli, ginger and garlic paste. The young women founders as the Swahili business name suggests started the business after the events organising business was negatively affected by Covid-19 pandemic restrictions imposed by the Kenyan government.
Forgrac Naturals deals in natural and organic beauty products such as soaps, shampoos, and hair oils. KCIC has been empowering local farmers who grow organic herbs such as pepper mint, rosemary, and lavender who in turn supply to Forgrac Naturals.
Okoa Food is an online platform (mobile application and web-based) that links agricultural producers to markets and reducing transaction costs and post-harvest losses. In addition, the Okoa Food has ventured into solar refrigeration services, an auction platform for farmers and innovative packaging solutions. The business currently under the KCIC incubation program also prides itself in being the only that has bundled halal certification and sharia-compliant financial products.
Agri-Tech Organic Farm engages in vermiculture (producing earthworms as fish or chicken feeds), vermicomposting (producing earthworms for use in transforming organic waste into fertilizer), black soldier fly farming for use as fish, chicken and pig feeds and algae farming for fish feeds or supplementing animal protein. The business has also started packaging compost manure for sale to farmers.
Miramesa Food Market is a groceries outlet owned by Miramar International and sources most of their products from youths whom they have trained and facilitated to access financing for greenhouse farming. Some of the youth groups they have supported are based in Juja, Limuru and Ngon’g. Miramesa also operate their own greenhouses and in the process of venturing into the export market.
Kimplanter Seedlings and Nurseries specialises in seedlings propagation. They have two business models where farmers can walk-in and buy ready to plant seedlings or they can bring certified seedlings where Kimplanter propagates them on your behalf.
Tasher Botanicals uses pumpkins to produce seeds and oils which they market as promoting prostate and bladder health, hair and skin health and relieving some menopausal systems.
Ipop Africa is an agribusiness initiative by Nutritious Agriculture Network (NAN), Kenya that uses technology to process all types of cereals into healthy oil-free snacks. The youth-led business also contributes 2% of all revenues to their partners who in return plant a tree.
Havila Organics specialises in nutritious organic products such as stone-ground maize and wheat flours, canola oil (sourced from Meru) and whole grains.
The Granary Food Store stocks cereals and ground spices such as tea masala, ginger, garlic, cinnamon among others. Tevin, the founder sources most of his products from Meru.
Isy Fashions is an apparent business based in Kilimani, Nairobi but on this event, the products on display were kitchen and farm wear.
In conclusion, I was surprised to observe that the prices at the market were either in the same range or lower compared to those from Mama Mbogas probably since the traders farm most of their products or source directly from the farmers, hence reducing costs. The Agribiz programme offers an excellent example of transforming food systems to enhance foo security and create jobs by addressing financing, capacity and market needs for agribusinesses.
All Covid-19 protocols were observed at the event.