Big win for vegetable farmers as county plans to construct market

Traders selling fresh produce at a section of Magena market in Kisii County. [Eric Abuga, Standard]

Kisii county has received Sh90 million to improve the quality and quantities of local vegetables for easier marketing.

The National Treasury received financing from the World Bank towards the National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NAGRIP).

Part of the money will be used to construct two markets; Marani and Magena Vegetable Aggregation and Marketing Centres in Kitutu Chache North and in Bomachoge Chache respectively.

The local vegetable is a source of income for Kisii residents. The area under indigenous vegetables goes up to 1,700 hectares, with a total production of 24,000 tonnes, bringing a total earning of Sh 1.1 billion to the county.

The main indigenous vegetables grown include spider flower, black nightshade, amaranthus, pumpkin, African Spinach (Enderema) and cowpeas.

For years, green vegetable marketing in Kisii and generally, within the catchment has been disjointed with farmers experiencing post-harvest losses of up to 30 per cent.

The Magena market will serve Bomachoge Borabu Sub-county which is the leading vegetable production in the county. Kitutu Chache North, where Marani market will be built, is the third leading producer of local vegetables in the county with a total production of 4,400 tonnes of fresh local vegetables per year.

Speaking yesterday during his visit to the two sites, Governor Simba Arati explained that with the diminishing land sizes in Kisii, horticulture production is encouraged. 

“We must work towards helping farmers to have the shelf life of their crop enhanced through the provision of cold storage facilities and other forms of value addition besides availing local and foreign markets. And aggregation is one step towards alleviating the challenges faced by our farmers.”

Records with the project coordinator Kennedy Monyancha, indicate that there are approximately 2,705 local vegetable farmers with an average production of 16.3 tons per hectare per year against a potential of 30 tons/ha per year.

Magena market, a border town along the Transmara and Kisii has steadily grown into a major supplier of fresh vegetables to major towns in Kenya. The vegetables are grown on both small and large scales in Kisii and in the neighbouring county of Narok; in Transmara West and East.

Here, close to 1,000 traders ferry fresh vegetables from large farms and sell them on large scale to individuals transporting the same to either Kisumu, Nairobi, Mombasa or Nakuru.

Mary Kemunto has been selling vegetables at the market for five years. She says a sack of managu has been selling at Sh 2,000 since December. “We have had plenty of supply of vegetables for the last four months. There are signs that a sack of either manage or saga will be trading at Sh 3,500 as of February. Already we are experiencing reduced supply," she said. 

The vegetables are packed in 25 and 50-kilogrammes sacks before they are transported to major towns every evening.

James Mokua is also another trader in the market. He grows and sells leafy vegetables on leased land in Transmara West. He has two acres of land. “There is a growing market for leafy vegetables. Magena market has grown into a major centre. The coming of the market will boost our business and attract more traders to this venture.”

Currently, the traders sell the produce in open spaces and along the Kisii-Kilgoris road despite the dangers posed by other road users.