Why Are Most Farmers Poor?

Why Are Most Farmers Poor?

2560 1704 Oliver Kagwe

Malindi, Kenya. 

No one can imagine how triggered I felt when I walked into a fruitmart in Malindi only to find that half of the produce there was either from South Africa, Egypt or Turkey. I was disappointed and angry. And not only are these things international, but also outrageously overpriced for a town like this one. It became a little painful when I imagined how poor the farmers in Malindi are, yet the items on display here could easily grow on their farms.

Tourism has been on its sick bed in this beautiful place for quite a while now. People only tell tales of it in such nostalgia they for a moment get lost in memories. The hopes they had of tourism’s health improving were dealt a blow when the COVID-19 virus decided to enter the scene. For some, it meant joblessness. For others, it meant going back to the farms they had ignored.

Farmers here are mostly in their middle to old ages. Youths are usually out working in the boda boda/tuktuk business, carwashes, salons, waiting in hotels, attending in shops etc. Few of them seem to fancy agriculture. Literally everywhere you look you will see an agrovet, and everywhere you go you will come across a shamba. The soil is fertile, and the beautiful weather offers good conditions for growth of many crop varieties – including grapes, watermelons, pineapples and various veges. They also have a bustling market that buzzes with activity as early as 4AM.

Read this too: Ones Does Not Break The Hand of a Farmer

Despite the business of the market, only a fraction of the proceeds reach the famers who put time and resources into planting, maintaining and harvesting. I have learnt with much surprise, that lorries come in to Malindi market early in the morning ferrying produce from farms outside Malindi. And ‘outside’ not only means counties neighbouring Kilifi, but also as far as the rift valley region! If you think this is outside enough, wait until you see the garlic, grapes and guavas coming in from Egypt, South Africa and Turkey!

So the question that I was left asking myself as I left this fruitmart was this: why aren’t our farmers the ones supplying produce to our markets and beyond? Also, why aren’t they diversifying from only planting maize to venturing into such things as custard apples, guavas, passion fruits, lettuce, tomatoes, mboga kienyeji etc?

I reckon that if it is a matter of land, Kilifi county has expansive fields, that are arable. If it is market, it exists – otherwise how is the produce from outside able to continuously sell? And in the case that we meet our local demand and exceed, we may always export or store. If you say agricultural inputs such as fertilisers and farm implements, come see the number of agrovets and how well stocked they are. Moreover, there have been numerous campaigns over years to encourage farmers to consider planting other crops and adopting better farming practices, but still, farmers are poor. So the question that I am currently exploring remains: Why are our farmers poor?


If you might have insights as to where the problem the problem might lie, share with me on the comments section below and lets have a discussion.

  • We were having a similar discussion with my friend but this time about the central region,where they grow maize and beans which yields low income. They lack information and capital to do things differently.

  • I think they have the information, it might be that they lack incentive. There is also the fear factor of I have never grown this crop here before, I have not seen anyone grow it, where is the market for it etc. There is a psychological reason that has not been fully explored.

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