The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has posed a critical threat to people’s health and wealth worldwide.
Whereas requisite emergency measures have been put in place to reduce the spread of the virus, the measures have tremendously slowed down activities and have the potential of causing an economic downturn unless parallel and concurrent measures are put in place to stabilize the economy.
Agriculture, being the backbone of Kenya’s economy, is just starting to feel the pinch of the pandemic. This has come at a time when the country is yet to resolve yet another significant threat to food Security; desert locust invasion.
The good news is, unlike some industries which might experience complete shutdown, farming is listed as essential services as populations need to be fed. Also, an assessment by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) found no evidence on food being a source of transmission for the corona virus.
Farmers ought to adopt measures that can safeguard and guarantee the functioning of agricultural activities and its cash flow.
- Take proper measures against the spread of covid-19 in the farm.
Farming activities such as planting or harvesting require workers to be physically in the farm. In this regard, it is vital to discuss sanitation and illness prevention measures in detail with the farm workers, including measures like social distancing, use of gloves when handling farm produce and frequently cleaning commonly touched surfaces and farm equipment before handing over to the next operator.
Employees should be encouraged to speak up when they are not well or are exhibiting the symptoms of corona virus. Before sending such an employee home, ask questions such as whom they’ve interacted with, what equipment they’ve been working on and what commonly used surfaces they’ve touched, to know the measures to take thereafter.
- Diversify your client base
Measures of mitigating the spread of the corona virus in Kenya have heavily affected the agricultural sector, leading to farmers losing some of their biggest clients.
Christine is a poultry farmer from Uthiru and most of her clients were hotels and schools. “Since the hotels and schools that we used to supply eggs to have closed down, we are now concentrating on supermarkets since they will remain open,” she said.
For products such as milk, there is an option of selling to cooperatives linked to a milk company.
Even though diversifying the client base might mean getting
less profits, the upside to this is that losses will be reduced in the long run.
- Cut down on costs
During these uncertain times, farmers should try as much as possible to cut down on their operating costs so as to increase their threatened profit margins.
According to Lengees, a farmer in Kajiado County, his farm has had to do away with third party slaughtering services so as to cut down on processing expenses. “We have recently resorted to slaughtering the livestock by ourselves. This means more work for us but we need to cut down on costs to reduce the farm losses,” he said.
- Offer home delivery services
To continue earning revenue amidst the closure of supply channels such as open air markets, it is time farmers became a little bit ingenious by thinking outside the box on various ways of selling their farm produce especially the perishable ones.
Recently, ‘mama mbogas’ have resorted to going door-to-door in estates selling vegetables. While at it, they issue out their contacts and people can call them with a shopping list of the items they want delivered home. This is indeed a brilliant way of doing home delivery.
This should of course be done with utmost care for public health such as wearing protective gears to mitigate the spread of covid-19.
- Online selling
The online market penetration in Kenya has increased tremendously due to the covid-19 outbreak and the measures that have been put in place to reduce the spread of the virus.
Tech companies such as Glovo, Jumia, Sendy and Uber have made this operation quite easy by offering online selling platforms.
Farmers should consider using such platforms together
with social Media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to sell their
- Buy inputs in bulk
With major supply chain disruption due to the corona virus pandemic, there is a foreseen shortage or hike in prices for critical farm inputs.
“We have also bought feeds for a whole month ahead…well- just in case there is a lock-down. I am also advised that in the long run, there could be a shortage of components that come from China, as such, we have stocked up now since prices may go up or products may run out,” said Christine, the poultry farmer from Uthiru.
Just like the average household is stocking up on food items, farmers should also stock up on farm inputs such as animal feeds, fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides.
- Invest in storage facilities
Considering the drop in demand for some farm products, farmers should invest in storage facilities to ensure their produce lasts longer to mitigate losses.
Potato farmers in Nyahururu are building cold rooms to ensure their produce lasts for like 6 months without spoiling.
“We have had to create more storage for eggs and bought extra trays of eggs so that in case there is a total lock down we can store eggs safely for a period of 3 weeks-4 weeks,” said Kinyanjui, a poultry farmer from Kitengela.
- Dry and store farm produce for later use
Farmers whose produce can be processed, for example by drying or using other less costly methods, to maintain its efficacy for later sale are at an advantage.
Fatuma, a chilli farmer in Nakuru expressed her luck by saying, “right now, people are more worried about stocking up food; not spices. In case there is a lockdown, I am very lucky because despite the low demand for spices, I will not have to dispose my harvest. I am currently harvesting and drying chilli to sell later.”