No bed of roses for women working in carrot farms

Carrots are gaining demand each and every day in the Kenyan market and more farmers are venturing into carrot farming.But have you ever asked yourself what carrot farmers go through before you can have carrots on the shelves and markets?

Our visit to Mau Narok, Bondeni, Likia and Mwisho wa Lami in Njoro sub county we meet a group of women busy working at the packaging centre.

The Packaging centre according to the women is the place where all the work is done.Here the carrots arrive in bags with some being transported with Lorries and Motorbikes depending on the distance from the farm.

And as they arrive in large numbers, there is this group of women whose work is to upload the bags on their backs before cleaning the carrots by removing all the mud.

The women dressed in polythene attire due to the effect of the water that is poured on the widespread carrots on the ground.As the water is poured, the women on their knees roll and turn the carrots using their hands until they are clean with no aspect of mud or soil before packaging them.

Carrots before packaging

However despite their efforts to cater for their families, the women have continued to face challenges.

Addressing media in the area led by Mary Muthoni, the women majority of whom are widows and single mothers say the task of cleaning carrots is not an easy one.

They cite lack of proper equipment for their work among them gumboots and water proof aprons to save them from the risk of contracting diseases due to the effect of the water they use for cleaning the carrots.

In addition, owing to the fact carrots take only three months to mature and be harvested the women are decrying lack of jobs after the lapse of the same.The women also citing insecurity as a major challenge as they have no street lights at the packaging centre yet times they have to work until late hours.

Their appeal is to the county government of Nakuru to think of them and help address some of the challenges they are facing.

“As widows working here to clean these carrots we are facing a lot of challenges ranging from security to lack of proper equipment. We are appealing to our governor to visit this area and see how he can assist us” said Muthoni.

Similar sentiments echoed by Ms Grace Wambui who does packaging of the carrots after the cleaning exercise.Her cry to the county government of Nakuru is to step in and ensure the many youths who are struggling to make ends meet are also assisted.

“Our appeal to the county to assist us even our youths who are struggling here” said Ms Wambui.

The women say they strive to clean at least 10 bags of carrots with one bag costing earning them Ksh 100 while the packaged bags are sold at Ksh 3000 per bag.

The money the women earn per bag is little compared to the donkey work they do.Ms Cecilia Njeri who has been doing the cleaning of carrots for many years in the area says what keeps them going is that they have to cater for their families as they are the sole bread winners.

She adds that the issue of equipment should be addressed so that they do not contract diseases such as arthritis that emanate from the effect of the water and cold.

“What we earn here is very little but what keeps us going is that we have families to take care. But we hope the government will hear our cry and ensure we have good environment to operate” said Ms Njeri.

Area MCA Jackson Githua also calling on government to ensure the farm inputs are not expensive and that there are no brokers.This, he says will help farmers get the benefits of farming.

PHOTO/Pristone Mambili:A woman carrying a bag of carrots on her back at the cleaning and packaging centre in Mau Narok Njoro.