I have never been given a business card with the title “Farmer.” Yet farming is one of the most common professions in Kenya. It is, however, not considered cool like medicine or law. The image of an elderly man struggling with a jembe to make a living or milking cows puts off many would-be farmers.
Yet farming is nobler than the noble professions. There is something magical seeing seeds sprout or milk coming from the teats of a cow.
In Tigoni, near Limuru, they have tried to make farming cool again. Three women, Zipporah Kiruthu, Lucy Mukora and Margaret Karuri have started a monthly farmers market where farmers meet to sell their crops, mostly vegetables like bokchoy, cabbages, kales, pumpkins, asparagus, cauliflower and broccoli that do so well in
Tigoni’s cool temperate climate.
The market is an extension of Tigoni community’s other initiatives like environmental improvement and agrotourism. Who said tourism is about the big five only?
The Tigoni farmers’ market is dominated by women from different racial and ethnic backgrounds (where are men?) It’s a melting pot. It’s more than a market; neighbours meet each other, know each other. It’s fun and a great outing, never mind the mist on an August morning.
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Such markets are frequent in the rural areas. But in the affluent Tigoni, it was a surprise. Beyond socialisation, another key driver is science; we want food grown organically without artificial fertiliser and other chemicals.
That is what farmers bring to Tigoni farmers market. Covid-19 and the need to earn an extra shilling is another incentive to start the farmers market.
They need to go a step further and bring in the health conscious Nairobians. The farmers also need to start aggregating for both local and international markets. The world is hungry and any contribution to food security is welcome.
The farmers market can also cut off the middlemen who buy from farmers at low prices then make a kill in supermarkets and other distribution channels. But more importantly, participants in the farmers’ market can enhance their hobby as they make some money.
It seems the ladies and few gentlemaen who I met on a chilly morning in Tigoni are playing their small part in making farming cool again. I bought a few vegetables like bokchoy, cauliflower, cabbage - fresh from the source. I will return next month.