Esther and Agnes selling farm products

Esther and Agnes selling farm products

As youths, our main impediment towards becoming farmers has been our lack of access to land. I have held onto this thinking until recently when I realized I can actually make a living from agriculture without being a land owner. I see people trade in agricultural products – vegetables, cereals, fruits and many others. With this, they would easily pass for your typical farmer selling his or her produce but as I discovered, that’s not true. They are what I would like to call second class farmers.
Esther and Agnes from Kibera slums belong to this class of “second-class” farmers. But I heard one Swahili speaker call them “Mama Mboga” which loosely translates to mother of vegetables. How can you be the mother of vegetable when you are not a farmer? To them, they believe that their work is to link consumers to the farm; they go to the farms and get to their customers whatever they need from there. They have opened up small shops – christened as “Kibanda”. It is in these shops that they conduct their trade – here, they sell eggs, tomatoes, onions, kales, pepper, cabbages, fruits and all that you can get from the farm.

Asking them how they obtain these products, some of them are farmers and so they get them from their farms but others have farmers who do the supplying. The farmers sell these products to them at slightly lower prices compared to their selling prices on the market. Probing further, I learnt a crate of tomatoes is delivered to them at Ksh4000, and it can fetch up to Ksh 10,000. Its paying to be second class farmers for them.

In their "Kibanda",all types of farm products can be found.

In their “Kibanda”,all types of farm products can be found.

“Farmers are the ones who keep us a live,” says Esther, “If they stop farming then we will be finished,” Adds Agnes. If you ate today, you should therefore thank a farmer. This strengthens the assertion that agriculture is the most important sector with the potential to create jobs and change people’s lives. According to these two ladies, this business is what feeds their families and educates their children. “We don’t have land but still benefit from the fruits of farming” says Agnes.
These women are playing an important role in linking farmers to the markets but still benefiting from the same. You don’t have to be a farmer to play a role in agriculture. Hence the importance of understanding agricultural value chains.