By Mercy Nduati
In the month of May, the Women Foood Entrepreneurs (WFE) research project partners in Kenya organized a stakeholders dialogue forum in Kisumu to update the stakeholders on the research activities, progress so far, build stakeholder capacity and receive feedback. This forum provided an opportunity for the stakeholders to dialogue and exchange views on key aspects of this research project, challenges, new opportunities, and next steps.
The WFE is an international research project in Kenya and Burkina Faso aiming to strengthen women’s food entrepreneurship in city slums in Kenya & Burkina Faso by building inclusive business models for food security.
The project research team carried out the first household survey in the slums of Obunga and Nyalenda in Kisumu to better understand the interactions between soil, food, nutrition, entrepreneurship, and community. The baseline survey focused on the food production system among farmers and it was done between February and March 2017. The households were selected through a systematic random sampling by interviewing every 11th household from the starting point.
The study showed that ugali is the popular local diet accompanied by fish whilst rice and chapati are the most consumed carbohydrates. Three vegetables consumed twice in a week are kales, cowpeas, and blacknight shade. It was also evident that the households consume fewer fruits, fats and oils. Additionally, the study indicated that food availability and affordability shape the local urban food plate.
“Women Food Entrepreneurs in Kisumu desire to grow as food processors, producers and marketers though they face certain challenges like access to capital, low technology advancement and poor storage facilities,“ observed Ms. Eunice Likoko, a Ph.D. research student under WFE research project.
She adds that the farmers rely mostly on indigenous knowledge and they have not invested in improved technology tools that can help boost their agribusiness enterprises. Another challenge is gender disparity whereby most of the women in the city slums are involved in farming in each household. Many women are mostly survival entrepreneurs and not growth-oriented due to multiple gender-related socio-economic, cultural, and political barriers and constraints.
“In the next phase of the WFE project, we intend to focus on ways to link farmers to market opportunities and engage them in policy implementation in efforts to support agribusiness and create networks for future engagements, noted Ms. Likoko.
The baseline survey shows nearly half of the sampled urban population in Kisumu is engaged in agribusiness: farming (13%), fishmonger (10%), cooked food vendor (10%), and vegetable vendors (22%) (WFE, 2017).
Stakeholders from the Kenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organization (KARLO) Horticulture Research and Kenya Industrial of Research and Development Institute (KIRDI) encouraged farmers to openly visit their offices if they need assistance on how to address agricultural challenges plus improve their nutrition and food security.
Giving his concluding remarks, CABE Executive Director, Dr. Hannington Odame challenged the young people to set up agribusiness incubation centers to create employment opportunities and solutions that can increase yields and encourage food diversity. He also called on the county government to subsidize the cost of fish feeds which are currently very expensive in order to encourage locals to engage in fish farming and also work together with research institutes like KARLO and KIRDI to introduce a solar heating system to prevent post-harvest losses.
On his part, Professor JB Okeyo from VIRED said,“The WFE project is the most achievable project as it has shown potential growth especially in the county of Kisumu. From the project, it is vital that farmers be enlightened about the importance of value addition plus access to markets to avoid post-harvest losses.”
He also mentioned that the next feedback meeting will be held In November this year.
The WFE research project is a four year programme funded by the Netherlands government at a tune of KES70m (U$700,000). It is a unique project involving research and capacity building among farmers and women entrepreneurs in the respective cities.