Taking a step back from the current politicking in Mombasa, the position on which we stated in our previous post, I would like to write today about another important development area; Agriculture. A key element of any economy, agriculture produces the food people eat and is the source of livelihood for thousands who are employed in the sector. But it is normally unfairly associated with poverty. Why is this the case? Many developing countries, like India and Morocco, have been able to improve the livelihood of their small-scale farmers, while earning the country increased foreign income, through establishing Mega Food Parks, where value addition is done, exports are facilitated and wastage is reduced. Something similar should be done in Mombasa, for the agricultural areas like Mtwapa and Likoni.
Imagine the scenario facing a small-scale farmer. They have just harvested some fruits and vegetables, and have a limited time to sell before their produce rot. With the limited resources that most of them have, they would sensibly accept whatever price that they get even if somewhere, maybe as little as 50km, or worse, a ferry-crossing away, their produce is in high demand and commands a very good price. What if this farmer had access to a cold store facility not far from where their farm is, thus increasing the lifespan of their produce? What if they had direct access to some of the companies who buy their produce for export, retail or further value addition. Wouldn’t this help the farmer get higher income? This is the role Mega Food Parks play. Fruits and vegetables are collected and stored at specialized collection points located close to the farms before being forwarded to a central processing center, which house the various companies who package the fruits and vegetables for retail or export, or use them to make other products like fruit juices, snacks, oils etc.
It sounds like a small idea but if implemented, it can greatly transform the lives of our farmers and at the same time benefit the rest of Mombasa through increased economic activity and employment. Needless to say however, the implementation of this idea will not be easy, as serious infrastructure investment is needed. A sound road network which connects the different sections of the food park and connects the food park to the port/airport for export, adequate electricity/water supply and proper drainage systems are just some of the infrastructure required to support the activities in the Mega Food Park. For which let’s pray Allah grants Mombasa, through our votes, good leadership come 4th of March 2013. Ameen.