With support from the European Union (EU) Market Access Upgrade Program (MARKUP) Kenya joins the rest of the work in marking the International Day for Rural Women. This day is commemorated every 15th of October to create awareness of these women’s struggles, their needs, and their critical and key role in our society.
As the world continues to strife in overcoming COVID-19 pandemic, women have been the hardest hit. They form a high number of labour force in agriculture sector and their livelihoods have been affected by loss of jobs for example.
But the rural women, somehow have found a way to survive, to still support their families through agriculture. This will be a story of strength, resilience and hope.
MARKUP communication team spent time with some rural women in Embu County, who are engaged in macadamia production. The women shared their stories of hope, resilience and hard work, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meet Grace Wamucira and Susan Wangerwa. They are tight friends and distant relatives they say, and for this reason they often join each other in giving support for farm work especially when one of them is overwhelmed.
On this day, they are shelling nuts. Manually. By literally hitting the nuts to crack the outer green cover, a task they say they are used to.
“I have been a macadamia farmer for over 25 years but I have never been contented especially with the prices offered by most buyers,” says Grace
Although there are numerous buyers for these nuts, prices range between Ksh 20 – Ksh 80 per kilogram. She wonders where the middle men resell the nuts, she says and would like to know so that she can sell directly.
“The income is so little considering that macadamia tress take up so much space of our already small pieces of land,” adds Grace
Like most of the farmers in this area, she has opted to intercrop macadamia with coffee in a bid to maximize on use of space and increase sources of income.
Like Grace, Susan hopes for a better market for her produce. She says times are strenuous especially with the new school calendar which was came as a result of interference of education sector by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“School terms are now shorter meaning we need to pay school fees more often, yet COVID-19 pandemic already caused us loss of income,” says Susan.
These farmers depend on local tree nurseries for macadamia seedlings.
Luckily though, they are likely to be some of the beneficiaries of the EU-funded MARKUP Kenya which will be supporting macadamia farmers with access to clean planting material.
MARKUP Kenya is implemented by the Unite Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in partnership with the government and private sector.
The program is working with Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) to empower tree nurseries in providing clean planting materials for macadamia, passion fruits, mangoes and groundnuts.
A few kilometers from this farm we meet Rose Mucheru checking on her already harvested and shelled macadamia nuts.
The moist stench which comes from this room, coupled with signs of rot on some nuts is a clear pointer of the need for farmers here to be sensitized on post- harvest handling and aflatoxin management.
“I would wish to learn how to handle my nuts well after harvesting,” says Rose
Last year, she recalls losing 200 kilograms of nuts after they were rejected by potential buyers due to suspected aflatoxin infection. Oblivious of the effects on human health, Rose confesses to have fed the infected nuts to her chicken.
According to a research done by MARKUP Kenya earlier in the year, aflatoxin contamination in food crops limits domestic, regional, and international trade in agricultural produce and results in economic losses. This happens through rejection of consignments and finished products as well as revocation of business operating permits.
While the bulk of data on aflatoxin is mainly about maize, the report states, tree nuts such as macadamia, walnuts and pistachio are also prone to aflatoxin contamination under drought, insect infestation and poor storage and handling.
“Macadamia nuts entering the European market must test below 2 µg/kg for aflatoxin B1 and 4 µg/kg for total aflatoxins,” reads the report in part.
MARKUP Kenya National Project Coordinator Maina Karuiru says the project is very committed in improving the welfare of women and youth.
Most farming activities, he noted, are concentrated in rural areas and women and youth are highly involved.
“We have been working with counties to ensure farmers form small groups and ensure gender equality and representation,” says Maina
He added that the groups will be trained on among other issues, Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), group dynamics and market opportunities.