How ready food goes to waste in Kenyan towns

Julius Kinyua, a trader at Toi market in Kibera sorts overripe and rotten bananas heaped in one corner of his stall. His business has suffered greatly from poor post-harvest handling. [Nanjinia Wamuswa, Standard]

In the heart of Toi market in Kibera, Julius Kinyua is busy collecting overripe and rotten bananas heaped in one corner of his stall. He fills two small blue basins and slowly walks towards a nearby compost pit and empties the rotten bananas.

“I bought bananas worth Sh45,000 from Meru over a week ago to sell them here. So far, l have sold bananas worth Sh25,000, and I have thrown away rotten ones worth Sh5,000. It is a setback,” he says.

In the stall, there are other ripe bananas scattered on the floor which, if they are not bought in the next two days, will go bad too. He is staring at further losses. Kinyua, who has been in the banana business for over 10 years, attributes his losses to too much heat, poor handling during loading and offloading and clients who press ripe bananas while buying.

Kinyua is not alone. According to statistics, post-harvest losses account for an estimated 30 per cent or 1.3 billion metric tonnes of food produced for human consumption that is lost or wasted along the supply chains.

Jane Ambuko, a lecturer and horticulture/post-harvest expert at the University of Nairobi’s Department of Plant of Science and Crop Protection, says post-harvest losses require immediate intervention. Dr Ambuko however says these losses can be avoided. In Kenya, she explains the biggest challenge is lack of data. “We do not have reliable data. What we have is a blanket figure from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) that indicates that average loss is 30 per cent and 1.3 tonnes of food loss. When you talk to producers, some are losing up to 50 per cent of their food,” she said.

Bartholomew Ondieki, another trader at Toi market, says on many occasions he has lost up to half of his stock of tomatoes.

Ondieki says: “I bought my latest stock of tomatoes worth Sh30,000 from Rombo on the Tanzania-Kenya border. I only got Sh17,000 after sales, because some of them had been damaged or rotten.”

He says he has suffered huge losses due to poor transport, wrong harvesting methods and bad pesticides.

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