Kenyan coffee beans sell at more than 100 times in the global markets the price paid to the farmers impoverished in part by poor government policies. The exploitation is replicated in nearly every single agricultural produce to benefit selfish people higher in the value chain.
It is such system failures that have ensured agriculture is frowned upon, especially by the younger generations who do not think of it as a viable economic activity. In other countries around Africa, the situation is exactly the same, with agricultural produce getting exported in the form they were harvested and little if any is put to value addition, with the end result being many foregone jobs.
With little processing of agricultural produce, Africa has handed the developed nations the power to determine the price of the raw materials in tea, coffee, pyrethrum – all produced in Kenya, and cocoa in Ivory Coast. Impact from the current slump in commodity prices has hit many households in Africa hard, yet the reasons given for the dip in values would not arise if the producers had the power to determine how much their farm produce is worth.
Millions of people in the West are employed in the processing of African produce, yet the continent is mocked as ‘dark’ while half of its people have never been formally employed. But in September, Kenya welcomes leaders from the African continent to a conference to discuss ways to reverse the damages.
Under the theme ‘Seize the moment, Africa rising through agricultural transformation’ the leaders from the continent must think of how to regain the power lost mostly in the precolonial era as the only way to ensure the value is accrued to the producers.
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Among the better outcomes of the Nairobi conference that any Kenyan will demand is how the farmers could be involved in setting the eventual selling prices by ensuring value addition happens closer home.