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Kenyan farmers are struggling, says 60 Decibels' study

Nine out of 10 Kenyan farmers said their financial situation has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic, according to data released by 60 Decibels, a tech-enabled impact measurement company

The report found that Kenyan farmers are economically squeezed by decreasing demand for their produce and livestock, falling prices and rising raw material and supply costs.

“The situation has rapidly deteriorated for many Kenyan farmers,” according to Venu Aggarwal, agriculture director at 60 Decibels, Inc. “Since agriculture dominates the Kenyan economy and employs approximately 75% of Kenya’s workforce, the ability of farmers to weather the pandemic storm is vital to Kenya’s future economic outlook.”

According to the research, Kenyan farmers are being forced to make adjustments to cope with the economic fallout of the pandemic. The report also added that approximately 90% of farmers have reduced the number of people hired to work on their farms. As a result, many farmers said they and family members are spending more time working on their farms.

These adjustments are critical because of the decreasing non-farm incomes from Kenyan farmers and rising food prices. In at least one source of income, 17% of farmers reported a decline compared to this time last year. Only 15% of farmers currently have income from a wage-earning job, compared to 25% in 2019.

The economic pressure on Kenyan farmers can have long-term consequences. Nearly six out of 10 farmers said they made unplanned withdrawals from their savings, and more than 40% recently borrowed money to cover income shortfalls due to the pandemic. Around 18% of farmers have reduced their loan payments, and 15% have sold or pawed assets they own.

While it is challenging to predict how long the economic downturn will last, the consequences in the short term are striking. According to 60 Decibels’ Vulnerability Index, as many as one-third of Kenya’s agricultural households are in economic distress.

“When we see a large number of households entering economic distress, we worry about the consequences for those individuals, but also the broader economic consequences for Kenya. It is certainly a call to action within the public and private sectors,” according to Nilah Mitchell, head of East Africa at 60 Decibels.

60 Decibels’ research results are based on a telephone survey completed across June and July 2020. The research was drawn from a stratified random sample of 1,000 Kenyan crop and livestock farmers living in agrarian areas in 45 of the 47 counties in Kenya, excluding Nairobi and Mombasa, and equally weighted between men and women. Two-thirds of the sample are small Kenyan farmers working on 1.2 or fewer acres, with the balance working on larger farms.