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Wakulima Market, where 'filth' makes it to your plate

By JOSPHAT THIONG'O | July 19th 2017
Traders sell their produce at the Wakulima market. (Photo: Courtesy)

A stream of raw sewage snakes its way from the roadside, cutting through piles of mangoes that are neatly arranged for sale.

The thick greyish sludge emits a foul, choking smell but people are going about their business as usual, unperturbed.

Traders at Wakulima Market offload the fresh foodstuff from trucks and lay them on the ground, dividing them into small portions for sale. These food products will soon make their way into households.

The city is currently reeling from a cholera outbreak and purchasing food at open markets, eating food at your local kibanda (food stall), five-star hotel or even a home-cooked meal can easily see you hospitalised.

Wakulima Market, which is the city's food basket, continues to attract thousands from different walks of life on a daily basis but traders at the market have to put up with deplorable hygiene, simultaneously putting their lives and those of city residents at risk.

At the market that supplies 90 per cent of Nairobi's food, huge piles of polythene bags, decayed leftovers, thick, greyish water and a foul smell attract one's attention from metres away, although it does not deter the traders from selling their produce.

Business is booming for the traders even though customers have to hop, skip and jump between the muddy pathways and carts that ferry the food.

Outside the market, the traders are busy unpacking sacks of carrots, avocados, potatoes, tomatoes, onions and cabbages.

At some point, tomatoes roll onto the ground and come into contact with the greyish water.

The trader handling them doesn't wash them. He hurriedly piles them and waits for an unsuspecting buyer to come and buy.

"There is no designated dumping site around and that's why you'll see all manner of trash around us. We are only responsible for selling our goods and it is up to the customer to make sure they wash them before consumption," said Jane Wambui, a trader.

It is, however, not business as usual for the traders who are feeling the pinch of the ongoing health inspection of food handlers and revocation of medical licences by the Ministry of Health.

For fear of arrest, the traders have now employed two people – a man and a woman – to man the entrance and one has to pay Sh30 just to access the market.

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