AGRICULTURE

Farmers' financial woes to hurt Kenya's food security - survey

Almost 90 per cent are

In Summary
  • At least 69 per cent of the farmers reported an increase in the price of agricultural inputs
  • 63 per cent of farmers actually reported that they received lower prices for their produce.
A farmer inspects her maize crop in Mwingi North subcounty of Kitui
DROUGHT THREAT: A farmer inspects her maize crop in Mwingi North subcounty of Kitui
Image: MUSEMBI NZENGU

Majority of Kenyan farmers greatly suffered from impact the Covid-19 pandemic and are struggling to procure inputs, a new survey commissioned by the Commonwealth shows.

The surveys shows that 88 percent of Kenyan farmers surveyed indicated they are worse off financially.

This, the report by impact measurement firm 60 Decibels, could further worsen food security in the country. 

Agriculture was the main anchor for the country's economy during the pandemic period

"While the majority have been able to tap into their savings, a third have had to borrow money and a fourth have sold assets," the survey shows.

It adds that as the farmers depleted their savings and saleable assets, they could become more dependent on borrowing, leading to a slower recovery.

The farmers then had 50 per cent decreases in the amount of hired labour, inputs purchased, produce harvested and products sold.

 

"More than 60 per cent of those who sold less produce said this was not a choice, they wanted to sell more but could not," the survey noted. 

At least 69 per cent of the farmers reported an increase in the price of agricultural inputs while 67 per cent of farmers said that the price they are paying for food in their household is higher.

''While the prices of farming inputs such as fertiliser or feed appear to be stabilising, farmers still face difficult financial choices in managing their budgets,'' the study says. 

Many farmers indicate dwindling confidence in their future in farming, particularly when they are in the earliest phases of the crop cycle when the harvest is still far away.

Localised delivery of – and financial support for – high-quality inputs would help farming households cope with Covid-19, the report recommends.

However, the increase in the price of food has not yet started making its way to farmers at the start of the supply chain.

Furthermore, 63 per cent of farmers actually reported that they received lower prices for their produce. Additionally, the farmers want to sell more but they are unable.

According to report, the government should prioritise smallholder farmers as a group that needs special attention in recovery efforts.

"These farmers have been most severely packed by lockdowns and they will require special support," the survey noted.

Despite the potential for digital platforms to provide support to smallholder farmers, only 26 per cent of the farmers surveyed had increased their use of digital products during the pandemic.

The top barriers include lack of funds to purchase internet or airtime, network-related issues, lack of access to a device and poor trust in digital products.

According to the report, women farmers are unlikely to use smart devices or the internet: 43 per cent reported using a smartphone in the past month (compared to 57 per cent of men), and 22 per cent used the internet in the past month (compared to 30 per cent of men). 

Their reasons include lack of access to a device or funds as their top barrier to using digital tools and platforms while 37 per cent stated that access to a device is a barrier (compared to 23 per cent of men), and 45 per cent stated that they lacked funds to pay for digital services (compared to 33 per cent of men).

These gender differences in access and use should affect the approach practitioners, donors and policymakers take when using digital tools to support Kenyan farmers in their recovery.