Each year, the bumpy 97 hectares of Jamhuri show grounds are host to an agricultural extravaganza of new crops, equipment, buyers, sellers, business options and even fantastical sideshows, for the Nairobi International Trade Fair. In 2010, the show drew more than 400 exhibitors, up from 340 the previous year, to the theme of ‘Driving Agri-business’.
International participation was also the highest ever, with 85 exhibitors compared to last year’s 70. At 20, China had one of the highest numbers of international exhibitors, in a show that saw the grounds beside the indigenous Ngong Forest play host to food crops in a pattern of small gardens all over the grounds before buildings with logos for the agricultural organisations responsible for presenting the innovations.
Notable agricultural exhibitors were the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Kenya Meat Commission (KMC), Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services, and Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers (KENFAP) among others.
New cutting edge agricultural technology was also showcased, including aeroponics technology that increases the multiplication of potato tubers five-fold, egg hatching technology, and irrigation and water conservation technologies, among others.
Each of the private exhibitors clamoured for the divided attention of the thousands of visitors passing their stands to explain what their products did and could do. The more colourful the mode of attracting the visitors, the larger the audience, so clowns, dancers, and even acrobats were part of the repertoire to draw the multitudes in.
Also there were non-agricultural exhibitors, such as One Plastics, a recycling company concerned more about conserving the environment in which food crops can thrive. According to their Sales Manager Bharat Barot, he saw the trade fair as an opportunity to preach the recycling gospel as well as showcasing his products to potential customers.
So far, his clients have been USAID, which sourced his recycled plastic poles and papers to build houses for refugees. “And we are working with Kenya Forestry Service to reduce the felling of trees,” said Barot.
The most abuzz stand was the one where Chinese traders were selling, clothes and bedding at knockdown prices. For many attendees, this was the sole reason to pay the Sh250 entry fee and buy these wares at lower prices. Bedding that retails at local shops for Sh4000 was selling at the Chinese stand for around Sh2000.
Next to the area where formal business took place was a vast arena with spinning swings, camels for rides and vendors selling kids merchandise like balloons for kids. This was the area reserved for quirky side shows.
A saunter around the compound took visitors past sack-built stands whose colourful announcers and grim door minders invited and ushered passers-by, the majority of them children, into their realms of the paranormal.
These included seeing a half man half mermaid, a head without a body, or the world’s shortest woman, although of these three only the latter was genuine. However that discovery was made only after having paid in each of the stands the mandatory Sh10 entry fee. Consequently many of the guests ended up disillusioned and arguing with the indifferent door minders who seemed happy to have pocketed the entry fee.
But these dramas were saved for the leisure corner. Elsewhere, this was a week of opening doors, finding genuine opportunities, and spreading the word on how agri-business can make and be far more in decades ahead. Besides the President, who graced the occasion on the first day to launch it, other luminaries who attended the one-week event included Trade Minister Chirau Mwakwere.
Written By James Karuga for African Laughter
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