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5.6. The Kenya case

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- Matthias O. Were



The Republic of Kenya has a total land area of 583,000 km . The country is of great topographical? climatic and soil contrasts. The altitude varies from sea level to over 5,000 meters and climatic conditions range from very dry in the marginal areas of the north to high rainfall in the forests of the couth west. It is said the soils of Kenya's central plateau area are among the most fertile in Africa while those of the semi-desert which cover half the country have very little agricultural potential except under irrigation in some specific areas.



Against this background of physical and natural constraints in agricultural production there is yet another constraint of high population growth. Kenya's population is estimated at 17 million and is growing at the rate of about 4% per year. It is further estimated that 90% of the population is rural and depends on agriculture for livelihood.



Kenya's agricultural sector is characterized by a wide variety of systems of production which reflects the differences between ecological zones and patterns of land tenure and population distribution



Coffee is Kenya's main export crop, but other principal earners of foreign exchange are tea, sisal, pyrethrum, dairy products, animal hides and skins, medium staple cotton, wool, nuts, animal feeds' and in some years, maize. Maize is Kenya's staple food crop and it dominates the cropping pattern.



Arising from the shortages of essential staple food grains in 1980, in June 1981 Kenya launched a sessional paper No. 4 of 1981 on National Food Policy. The overall objects of the policy are three fold.

  1. Achieve a calculated degree of food supply for each area of the country.
  2. Maintain a position of broad self-sufficiency in the main food stuffs in order to enable the nation to be fed without using scarce foreign exchange on food imports.
  3. Ensure that these food stuffs are distributed in such a manner that every member of the population has a nutritionally adequate diet. The National Food Policy addresses specific issues of price policy, agricultural trade policy, agricultural inputs policy, research and extension policy' food security policy, processing and marketing policy' nutrition policy, resource development policy and, employment policy.



The topic for this workshop is appropriate in that it is in line with our overall national food policy cited above. The relevant issues affecting the possibilities for promotion of sundried products could be addressed under processing and marketing policy. It is stated that the policy here will be to expand the infrastructure with the intention of providing all regions of the country with assured supply of food required at the lowest cost. To meet this objective government policy will be to:

  1. provide farmers with remunerative outlets
  2. expand storage capacities at the farm, cooperative and national levels
  3. expand milling capacities to meet the increasing consumption requirements in urban areas
  4. encourage and increase the number of hammer mills for grinding maize in the rural areas etc.

Although these pronouncements are specific of the maize crop it could be rightly argued that the same holds true for all other crops that require processing and marketing.



Many of Kenya's agricultural products are sun-dried:


The coffee perchment is sundried by cooperative societies after pulping and fermentation.


Small scale farmers sun dry their pyrethrum flowers before selling to the marketing board.

Wheat: Sundried

Maize: Sundried

Rice: Sundried by National Irrigation Board

Sorghum: Sundried

Pulses: Sundried

Hides & skins: Sundried

Oil crops: Sundried

Cassava: Sundried before grinding into flour

Chillies: Sundried

Fish: Sundried also smoked

All the above products are marketed through the existing marketing channels in the country.

Noting the focus of the workshop on the perishable or unstable products such as fruit, vegetables, tubers and spices, it is perhaps disappointing to point out that not much sundrying is done of these products in the country except for cassava and chillies, in Nyanza, Western and

Coast provinces of the Republic. However, noting the importance of these products in the nutritional status of the people who perhaps cannot afford the high costs of refrigeration and canning' alternative processing techniques for fruits and vegetables seems at timely consideration.



Horticulture is an expanding industry in the country. As of now fruits and vegetables in Kenya are preferably consumed fresh. The implications of this marketing and consumption pattern is that under rainfed conditions fruit and vegetables are plentiful and are purchased at throwaway prices during the harvest period whereas during the dry season fruits and vegetables are scarce and the going prices are prohibitive to the extent that the vast majority of the population cannot afford these nutritionally desirable foodstuffs.

Kenya, because of the favourable climatic conditions is able to produce horticultural crops like citrus, bananas, mongoes, pawpaw, passion fruits, apples, avocadoes, pears, plums, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, carrots, capsicums, cucumbers, pineapples and a range of Asiatic fruits and vegetables, not to mention an array of local vegetables such ass

Common name Botanical name
Cow pea leaf (vigna unguiculata)
East African spinach (amaranthus hybridus)
Pumpkin leaf (curcurbita pepo)
Nightshade (solanum nigrum)
Swiss chard (beta vulgaris)
Red kidney (Bean) (phaseolus vulgaris)
Kale (brassica oleracea var acephala)
Bush okra (chorchorus clitorius)

Many of those are now entering the money economy particularly in the urban areas. Once again most of these vegetables if not all are consumed fresh. However, in parts of Nyanza, Western and Coast Province the cowpea leaf was in the past sundried and preserved to be consumed during the dry season.

This technique unfortunately has been dying out with increased urbanization and a tendency to go in for exotic fruits and vegetables like cabbages etc., which are consumed fresh. The seed for these exotic fruits and vegetables are also more easily available in the country compared to these of the local vegetables.




Once again not much is going on in the field of dried fruit and vegetable products. However, a lot is being done in such crops as coffee, pyrethrum, maize, rice and beans on a large scale' which areas are not the focus for this workshop.


At small scale farmer level, the Ministry of Agriculture has projects for the promotion of improved farm-structures and techniques for storage of food on small farms.

The institutional framework that has been created could easily be expanded to cater for additional projects on sun-drying provided of course the necessary finances and qualified personnel are identified for such a project.


The National Horticultural Research station of the Ministry of Agriculture has started a project to screen local green leafy vegetables commonly consumed by Kenyans.

Currently work is going on on the East African Spinach (amaranth" hybridus) and the cowpea leaf (vigna unguiculata). Some of the treatments being conduct ad are solar dehydration, steam blanching, sulphiting and storage. Apart from determining the probable losses of carotene during the various drying techniques and storage it is also the objective of the project to determine the acceptability of the products so dried.

These are mainly laboratory tests, it would be interesting to extend further these tests, to real situations. Here lies another possibility for future assistance in terms of resources that might be required.


In 1975, under the auspices of UNICEF, Village Technology centres were set up. Many areas were covered including processing and storage. Little, if any' evaluation has been carried out as to their appropriateness and many of the ideas did not pass the criteria of acceptability.

Following my interview with an official of UNICEF it would appear that no inventory of any existing sundried techniques had been made. The project was transplanted from the Caribbeans and superimposed on the Centre for Research and Training in Karen. It is also understood that the project was not cost effective.

This project has singe been abandoned. However, we think there is enough cause to revive the project with a more scientific approach. Considerable scientific investigation is necessary in order to see which of the devices have an acceptable level of performance as wolf as to provide necessary information on cost effectiveness.



The National Irrigation Board undertakes some drying of its onions and chillies in the irrigation scheme. About 200 tons of chillies are dried per year to reduce the weight by one third. The drying is done on corrugated iron sheets on a roof 3 ft high constructed in a slanting position to drain any rain water.



As stated above the traditional techniques in Kenya for fruits and vegetables are not adequately documented. The first step would be to carry out a country-side sample survey of such traditional techniques. Given an increasing population and the need to feed it at the lowest possible cost as underscored in our National Food Policy, it is definitely wise to investigate these techniques and, where possible, rehabilitate and improve them. Techniques in cassava drying for example would need to be looked into and improved accordingly.

In places where there might have been no traditional techniques' for example amongst the nomadic and semi-nomadic Kenyans, and where deliberate attempts are being made to settle these people through irrigation programmes new and cheap techniques will need to be introduced to enable them to have access to nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables.



Once again as stated above the disappearance of the traditional techniques where they existed has been due to urbanization and changing consumption habits of the rural Kenyan. The pattern of agriculture with the stress on the introduction of new crops that are best eaten fresh has also accounted for the disappearance of the traditional techniques. In the case of Kenya, in order to appreciate these constraints in greater detail, a survey is once again strongly recommended to provide the necessary base for any future action.

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