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Jungle life: Nairobians sourcing food from village to beat inflation

Farmers harvest Potatoes at Kidawa Village in Olkalou Constituency Nyandarua County. [File, Standard]

It’s around 2 pm at Mfangano Street, Nairobi. Shoppers, hawkers and touts are walking along the pavements going about their business.

Those with children wait patiently to cross the road.

The noise of matatus hooting is deafening.

It is a typical day in the city. 

By 3 pm, at the North Rift Shuttle booking office, the crowds grow bigger and suddenly, it becomes a hive of activities.

Men and women are seen collecting their parcels from the office.

“The bags you are seeing here contain maize, beans and bananas from Eldoret and Bungoma. The people queuing at our store have come to collect them,” said Isaac Tarus, North Rift Shuttle Store Manager.

 He added: “With the high cost of living, Nairobi residents are sourcing their food from their rural homes instead of buying a packet of two-kilo maize flour at Sh230. When the food arrives in Nairobi, it’s picked immediately. People are no longer buying food in Nairobi.”

According to Mr Tarus, on weekdays, they receive tonnes of food from the Western region alone, adding that despite an increase in the cost of fuel, they did not increase the price of ferrying parcels.

“The cost of living is very high and if we would have increased the price of sending parcels, it would have been a big burden to our customers,” said Tarus.

At Ena Coach and Transline Classic booking offices along Tom Mboya street, several buses from Nyanza region arrived around 4.30 am.

A similar rush for parcels like is the case at North Rift Shuttle is also being witnessed here.

“For the last two months, I have been sourcing food from my farm, back in the village. I had planted five acres of maize in Seme constituency. After harvesting, I got 30 bags of maize and 19 bags of beans, this is what is sustaining me in Nairobi,” said Arnold Onyango.

Stopped buying sugar

“With the current high cost of living, if you want to survive in Nairobi, you must get food from the village. The food that is brought from home is able to sustain us for at least, a month. I only buy vegetables and other nonperishable from the supermarket,” he added.

Onyango revealed that he stopped buying sugar and milk and replaced it with honey that he bought from Tanzania.

He says, as a result, he has managed to save at least Sh20,000 that goes to school fees of his three children in secondary school.

Robert Ombati, Transline Classic Services manager, said that initially, they would receive between two and five tonnes of food from the Nyanza region, but after the prices of maize flour and basic commodities skyrocketed, they currently between 10 and 15 tonnes of food daily.

“Instead of buying maize flour at Sh230, they prefer getting bananas, avocados, maize and beans from their rural areas to the city that can last them for at least a month. People have stopped buying food from supermarkets as a result of skyrocketing prices,” said Mr Ombati.

 “We used to spend Sh20,000 for fuel from Nairobi to Kisii, but currently we spend Sh40,000. If we were to get profits, we would have doubled the prices of sending parcels at the same rate. Without food coming from the rural areas, people will not survive in Nairobi,” he added.

 Samuel Otieno, a tout at Machakos Country Bus Station, noted an ailing economy and failed rains are to blame for the situation. 

“In my house, I depend on food from the village. I have been forced to get alternative means of surviving since it is not easy. Even cooking breakfast at my house is expensive, I would rather walk to an eatery and spend Sh60 instead of spending over Sh300 if I cook in my house,” said Otieno

He added: “To make breakfast at home, I will have to buy milk at Sh70, sugar at Sh153 a kilo, tea leaves at Sh30 and a loaf of bread at Sh60 and paraffin or charcoal at Sh100. Eating at a food kiosk is cheaper than cooking in the house.”

For the past year, food prices have steadily been rising in the country which has been linked to high inflation rate and the weakening shilling against the dollar.

Currently, to fill a 6-kg gas cylinder, you have to part with Sh1,500 from the previous Sh900 translating to a 66.67 per cent increase.

A 2-kilogramme packet of sugar in most supermarkets in Nairobi retails between Sh315 and Sh325 up from Sh230 in January this year.

This translates to a 36.96 per cent increase in the cost of buying sugar.

The price of cooking oil has also increased by over 100 per cent in the last 12 months.

Against the backdrop, over a 4.2million Kenyans are facing starvation in 24 counties. This is according to Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.

“The counties have been severely hit by the prolonged drought that was occasioned by delayed rainfall putting the lives of Kenyans at stake in the arid and semi-arid areas,” said Gachagua.

“We are mobilizing resources for animal off-take. In areas where we find that the animals are too weak, we are going to work with Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) to buy them so that pastoralists do not run into losses,” said Gachagua on Friday.