Kenya Impact Area:
01. How is micro and small enterprise in horticulture important to food systems in Kenya?
Horticulture is one of the most dynamic sectors of Kenya’s economy, currently contributing a third of the value of agricultural output. In 2018, the export of horticultural products generated €1.5 billion. Fruit and vegetables made up between a quarter and a third of exports, and 8% and 26% of total value respectively.
Up to 80% of horticultural producers in Kenya are micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, which means this sector employs around seven million people. In general, these MSEs’ value chains are informal, fragmented and unorganised. 15 counties supply 74% of fresh produce, more than half of which is produced on farms less than 10 acres. Most of these farms are in rural and peri-urban areas, and family- owned. Due to their limited financial capital and low volumes and standards, they often rely on informal channels to sell their products. They lack direct access to markets, due to high transport costs, and sell to farmgate traders. These farm-gate traders take this produce to open-air markets and kiosks, where women own three- quarters of businesses. Over 90% of urban fresh produce sales take place in these hubs.
02. What are the challenges for systems leadership in micro and small enterprise in horticulture in Kenya?
The role of MSEs in horticulture is rapidly changing. Challenges that were once isolated are becoming increasingly interconnected. MSEs lack irrigation, have limited productivity and produce inconsistent quality. They lack the knowledge, technology, finances and institutional support necessary for growth. The absence of regulation creates concerns about the safety of their food production, handling and preparation practices. Recent food safety scandals have stressed the importance of having control on these value chains, which often penalises MSEs unable to deliver consistent quantity and quality to supermarkets. It is vital that future stakeholders work together on MSE value chains. The production cycle for fruit and vegetables is short, owing to their perishability, so MSEs would hugely benefit from increased chain-wide coordination to minimise loss and waste.
This is a call to action for systems leaders to collectively address governance and structural weaknesses in the horticulture sector and improve its performance. There are some big questions that systems leaders have to grapple with. For instance, how do we reach, support and assure MSEs operating outside current regulatory frameworks? Can we enhance their provision of quality to traders and formal markets? What is the best way to build a resilient sector inclusive of MSEs? Do you have solutions to offer? The African Food Fellowship aims to gather individuals who can mobilise networks and institutions to support MSEs and untap their potential for feeding a healthier population.