Small-scale farmers decry harsh economic times due to COVID-19 pandemic

Ms Dorcas Wanjiku attends to her farm at Chibonde area in Elburgon,Molo Nakuru County.PHOTO/Pristone Mambili.

Small-scale farmers in Chibonde and Tegat areas of Elburgon in Nakuru County are now a worried lot over what they term is huge negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

They say the pandemic is disrupting some activities in agriculture and supply chains with non-availability of migrant labor interrupting farming activities.

Ms Dorcas Wanjiku is a small scale farmer from Chibonde, Elburgon who has been active in small scale maize potatoes, beans and vegetable farming.

She says the small scale faming has been of great help to her livelihood.

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic Dorcas admits that the small scale farmer is the most affected with the disruptions in the agriculture supply chains.

According to her, since the government announced closure of some institutions such as schools there has been a big blow to the small scale farmers who relied on such institutions as their market.

“In terms of market we are really affected since we cannot do anything as most institutions are shut” she said.

She says this has led to some brokers who now visit farms to collect the produce.

According to Dorcas, the brokers have taken advantage of the COVID-19 to exploit small scale farmers at grass root level.

She adds that farmers who have taken loans from banks will have difficulties in paying even though the government has directed the banks to be lenient.

It is for this reason that she is calling on government and NGOs to step in and support the small scale farmers so that they can in return boost the economy.

“This is the time that the small scale farmers need a lot of support for they are key in matters economy of the country” said Dorcas.

Similar sentiments echoed by Hellen Chepkemoi.

Ms Hellen- a small scale farmer in Tegat, Elburgon says since the announcement of COVID-19 cases in Kenya, life has never been same.

From certified seeds to fertilizers and other farming inputs, Hellen says the prices have hiked in agrovets across the county.

This, despite the government’s announcement that prices of farm inputs be lowered.

Hellen who also does dairy farming says since the pandemic, they have lost on the milk business as no markets are operational and if at all they operate, very few people avail to buy milk due to fear.

She adds that with the hiked prices of farm inputs, the small scale farmers will continue to face hard times unless interventions are put in place.

“Life is not easy for us small scale farmers in this area. Unless interventions are in place, we shall continue to suffer” she said.

The duo is just a representation of what many small scale farmers are facing at grass root in Kenya due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the precarious livelihoods of many Kenyans, agriculture, food security, and safety net policy and program responses are also urgently required.