The changes such as increases in urban dwellers and demand for high quality and safe products being witnessed in agrifood systems around the world present opportunities for farmers to orient production to meet the emerging needs. To this end, governments in Sub- Saharan Africa have been reconstituting new trading policies. In Kenya, banana farming is a prospective activity through which small-scale farmers could exploit the emerging opportunities. This study examines the banana value chain in Meru County in order to determine the constraints and opportunities therein and the farmers’ responses. Although agricultural value chain studies are strongly recommended as possible intervention strategies of increasing the farmers’ competitive position in their activities, past studies on banana farming in Kenya mainly focused either on production or marketing. This study focused on the following objectives; profiling the demographic-socio-economic characteristics of farmers and traders, determining the constraints and opportunities in banana value chain, and evaluating the spatio-temporal distribution of periodic banana markets. A survey design and mixed method approach were used in data collection. Research instruments included: (i) Questionnaires administered to 384 farmers and 384 traders who were purposively selected. (ii) Interview guide used for 8 key informants. (iii) Focus group discussion guide used for 2 groups. Data processing and analysis was done using excel and SPSS. Quantitative data was analysed using analysis of variance, t test, Pearson correlation coefficient and nearest neighbour index. Qualitative data analysis was guided by SWOT and Scoring cards. Results showed that: women dominated production (52.6%) and marketing (57.6 %); a significant (p
(iii) Banana value chain has enormous potential to benefit farmers (iv) Markets do not meet the needs of the farmers equally. It is therefore recommended that: (i) community training on production and entrepreneurship targeting women to be conducted. (ii) Meru County government to partner with private firms in helping farmers address constraints and exploit existing opportunities. (iii) Banana traders to curve out a niche market in order to promote banana value addition, and (iv) the County government to either reorganise market in synchronised way or establish new ones in areas not optimally served.
Agricultural value chains are important devices that could enable farmers to maximize profit from farming activities within a global market system (Kaplinsky & Morris, 2000; Mangnus & Piters, 2010; Mitchell, Keane, & Coles, 2009; Royal Tropical Institute [KIT], Faida Mali, & International Institute of Rural Reconstruction [IIRR] 2006). The global market system is mainly driven by market forces with reduced government control. The main consumers along the global market system are urban populations with relatively high disposable income (Irungu, 2011; Nenev, Reardon, Chege, & Wang, 2006; Satterthwaite, McGranahan, & Tacoli, 2010).
Urbanization is projected to increase to a ratio of 3:2 urban to rural dwellers globally by the year 2025 (Satterthwaite et al., 2010). Rising urban population implies increased demand for food. Besides, the high disposable income acts as an incentive for consumers to diversify their diets as well as demand higher-value livestock products, fruits and vegetables, and relatively less food staples (Hazell & Wood, 2008; Ngigi, Okello, Lagerkvist, Karanja, & Mburu, 2011; Satterthwaite et al., 2010). Moreover, consumers demand high quality and safe products, more processed, and pre-cooked foods (Maertens & Swinnen, 2012; Minot & Ngigi, 2004; Muendo, Tschirley, & Weber, 2004). Despite the changing consumption patterns, the source of food will largely remain in the hands of the small-scale farmers in rural areas (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa [AGRA], 2013; Schaffnit-Chatterjee, 2014). The changing consumption patterns present opportunities for the farmers to exploit.
In order to seize the emerging opportunities, nations have resorted to value chain developments (Jaeger, 2010; Kaplinsky & Morris, 2000; van Melle, Coulibaly, & hell, 2007). Value chain developments are undertaken with an aim to improve quality, increase system efficiency, and develop differentiated products (Agriculture and Food Council of Alberto, 2004).To enhance participation of farmers in the global market system, governments have been reconstituting or formulating new trading policies (Keleman, Raño, & Hellin, 2009; Mangnus & Piters, 2010).
Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are responding to changes prompted by the global market system by setting up production targets for value chains and providing support, both at country and regional level, for such initiatives (Haggblade & Nyembe, 2007; Jaeger, 2010; Schaffnit-Chatterjee, 2014; van Dijk, & Trienekens, 2012; van Melle,Coulibaly, & Hell, 2007). For example, Haggblade and Nyembe (2007) noted that Zambia’s Agricultural Consultative Forum (AFC) encouraged and facilitated the private sector by initiating an Acceleration of Cassava Utilization (ACU) Task Force beginning August 2005. The ACU Task Force hoped to increase cassava-based farm and food processing income as well as improving Zambia’s food security (Haggblade & Nyembe, 2007). Similar outcomes were expected at the regional level through concerted effort between the Cassava Transformation in Southern Africa (CATISA) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) regional food staples initiative (Haggblade & Nyembe, 2007).
In Kenya, value chain developments related to legumes (e.g., peas), cut-flowers, vegetables (e.g., French beans), and fruits (e.g., passions) have been undertaken (Jaeger, 2010; Otieno & Knorringa, 2012). The participation in value chain activities by the small-scale farmers has, however, been limited to domestic markets (Jaeger, 2010).
While stringent export requirements (Ashraf, Ginè, & Karlan, 2009; Jeckoniah, Mdoe & Nombo, 2013; Ngigiet al., 2011) and inadequate capital to invest in agriculture (Jaeger, 2010; Narayan & Gulati, 2002) may explain the small-scale farmers’ confinement in domestic markets, inefficiencies of the chains partly ensuing from constraints therein could also be playing a role (Halewood & Surya, 2012). Inefficient agricultural value chains have the following features: high income disparity between farmers and sellers, several actors, weak relationships among and between actors due to lack of collaboration, lack of delivery promptness, commodity wastage, and poor flow of information (Dent, Macharia, Aloyce, 2017; Li & O’Brien, 1999).
Banana is among the most important tropical food staples after rice, wheat and maize in terms of gross value production (Pillay, Tenkouano, & Ortiz, 2012).Globally, banana production is at 130 million tonnes per year and continues to grow steadily (Domaingue, Lewicki, This, Bakry, Horry, Braconnier, Pot, & Trouche, 2017). Most of the world’s banana (98%) is produced in developing countries (Pillay et al., 2012). In such countries bananas form part of source of food and income.
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