Farmers are moving into schools and other institutions in search of markets as their peers suffer losses due o delayed sales as well as exploitation from middlemen.
Trans-Nzoia County potato farmer William Wafula Ndalila realised the potential in selling farm products to school in 2015 after consecutive losses to low prices in local markets.
In the first term of 2016, the farmer sold 15 sacks of orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes to two schools at better prices than those offered by wholesalers and piece meal village buyers.
“Selling to schools was faster than local markets. They bought in bulky and at standard prices, without much scrutiny on the size of the potatoes,” he said.
Ndalila sold 10 sacks to St Patrick’s Kitale Boys High school at Sh1,500 for every 110kg bag.
St Brigids Girls High School Kiminini bought five sacks at Sh1,300 each.
The same quantity of potatoes only fetches about Sh1,000 or less at local Kamukuywa Market when sold to brokers.
Individual selling in folds of four or five is even worse, with the farmer running into the risk of delayed harvest and spoilage of unsold ones.
The remaining 11 out of the 26 sacks he had harvested from half an acre, was sold to wholesale buyers at Kamukuywa Market, Kitale.
Another Kitale maize and sugarcane farmer, Charles Odida, said producing for an imaginary market is a sure way of making losses after investment.
Although Western Kenya farmers are crying over poor payment by public sugar companies, as more other millers close down due to bulky debts, Odida dodged this predicament by entering into a supply contract with a prompt paying private miller.
He has also signed maize delivery contacts with schools to ensure that there are no losses resulting from nonpayment or infections like aflatoxins while in store.
“I learnt the trick of looking for a market before production while at primary school. I identified that the teachers needed vegetables in my school. I grew and sold kales to them. I was never disappointed,” he said.
He has more than 100 acres under sugarcane and maize.
Farmer peeling orange-fleshed sweetpotatoes. Photo courtesy of International Potato Centre (CIP).