May 11th, 2018 – Kisumu, Kenya
Author: Noah Kozminski
Beginning their first day of on-site research, the Produce Solutions team meets with a local farmer to learn how supply chains in Kisumu bring fresh food from the farm to the table. By implementing modern technology, the team looks to reduce waste of critical food supplies by improving connections between rural farmers and transporters.
The team goes to talk with a nearby farmer, whose knowledge is critical to understanding the network of supply and demand of food in the Kisumu area. After a dust-filled, bumpy van ride (a Kisumu staple) to the farm’s location some 10 kilometers from town, the team makes their way down winding, overgrown backroads before finally meeting with local farmer Sande.
A guided tour of the acre-and-a-half farm shows off a considerable array of produce and livestock — goats, cows, and chickens accompany plots of kale, maize, and spinach. The crowning jewel, however, is the fruit. Sande proudly displays his variety of citrus trees bearing oranges, lemons and tangerines. A closer look reveals that one tree bears four types of fruit — Sande has mastered the art of grafting, allowing a single plant to provide a variety of related fruits in an impressive feat of ingenuity. His farm, Sande says, offers varieties of oranges and tangerines unavailable anywhere else in the area.
Continuing with the tour, the team visits a mango grove, a crop which is particularly difficult to store and transport due to synchronized ripening and a short marketable lifespan. At the far end of the farm, a USAID-provided irrigation system drip feeds a plot of maize and several banana trees. Sande explains drastic seasonal changes in water supply cause many losses and challenges — flooding in the current rainy season causes soggy soil, visible to the team in a wilted field of spinach, and droughts cause soil to dry and crack.
A final round of questioning from the Produce Solutions team reveals several of the issues local farmers face with pre- and post-harvest losses. Rotting, expensive pest management tools, and seasonal challenges are constantly problematic, and supply and demand can fluctuate dramatically. Sande explains that he prefers to do business with local women, who carry produce to market by hand, rather than deal with supermarkets, who sometimes take advantage of local farmers by charging them for goods that spoil at the store.
The team, having gained valuable information from this venture, now looks farther from Kisumu, where they feel the insights from more rural farmers may further illuminate issues in transporting perishable goods into the city center.