Nearly 50% of harvested fruit and vegetables in Kenya is lost before it even reaches the customer, due to fragmented and uninformed supply chains. That means for every avocado you eat, one has been lost. At the same time a large portion of the population suffers from malnutrition and food insecurity. By building and scaling local, commercial companies that radically improve professionalism and efficiency across the domestic fruit and vegetable value chain, FoodFlow has the audacious goal to reduce this number from 50% to 0. Since this year the program has begun building and testing solutions. One of the companies within FoodFlow that is being built in this food chain, with the support of the DOEN Foundation, is Taimba. Where on average it takes six transactions for produce to get from farmer to consumer, Taimba radically rethinks this supply chain providing predictable demand by directly connecting farmers to sellers. Esther is one of these sellers and, as part of Taimba’s team, Brian delivers produce to her. Together they give us a peek into what the daily impact is of Covid-19 on their work and lives.
Always on time
“I source all my fruits and vegetables from Taimba,” Esther says confidently. “You can confirm with Ruto, I always buy from him. Si ndio Ruto (Is it true Ruto)?” Brian Ruto gives a nod and confirms with a smile, “I am a sales representative with Taimba in charge of the Kiambu Route of which Esther Njeri is one of my good customers.”
“I buy from Taimba because they are fairly priced and bring to us produce that is of good quality,” Esther continues. “The most important thing is that they deliver on time. I no longer have to worry about waking up early in the wee hours of the morning to go the market myself to make direct purchases and that time is now better used bonding with my family.”
“I have been in business for the last 12 years, but the last 2 months have been very difficult for my business and our family,” Esther elates sadly. “The situation in Kenya during these Covid times is very difficult for small scale traders like me. Most of my customers, about 80% of them, are now purchasing from me in credit and I am not sure if they will be able to pay me in good time to purchase new stocks. But these are customers I have known for such a long time and I cannot deny them food. Life has become very difficult for me because we are now digging into our savings to support the business. I am not sure how long we will be able to survive.”
As a start-up directly supplying to small scale vendors like Esther, Taimba in turn feels the effects of the decline in sales. “A lot of our mama mbogas have closed shop because of the prevailing circumstances. I used to for example sell a total of 12 sacks of potatoes per day, but currently I am struggling to even sell 3,” Brian illustrates. “Taimba is coping by diversifying its sales channels. I see opportunities to grow our online business segment as well as a steady increase with our home delivery business.”
Hope for the future
“But I am grateful for health and a job at Taimba at a time when things are difficult for many people across Kenya, and that is why I continue to serve with a smile even when business is not very forthcoming,” he says looking at the silver lining. “My hope for the future is that this pandemic unites us as a people across the globe. I hope that it makes us see that we are all one no matter our race, profession or country.”
Esther is also very hopeful for the future and continues to dream out loud: “This current situation is not permanent, and I believe it shall pass. My ambition is that if my business goes back to normal, I can start saving again and enable my children to go to a better school. My husband and I are also working towards purchasing a plot so that we can eventually settle in our own home!”
FoodFlow is a business-intervention program of Enviu, an impact-driven venture building studio active since 2004. The DOEN Foundation supports Enviu via the programme Circular Entrepreneurship and Taimba via the programme Sustainable Food System.
Photo credits: Enviu