Vegetable stores in Kenya survive supermarkets’ siege

Fastmoving reported on the impacts of supermarket expansion  on small shops and informal markets in Kenya

Vegetable stores in Kenya survive supermarkets’ siege

Kenya has experienced a boom in supermarkets, with the retail outlets rapidly expanding in suburbs and town across the East African nation as competition stiffens.

The big stores have taken their services closer to the people enabling them to access easily a variety of goods that include household items, electronic equipment, clothes and groceries.

On the flipside, the result of the rapid expansion has been that the retail outlets have ruined business for shopkeepers in areas they have expanded to as they become one-stop shop for many consumers.

However, while shops have become one of the biggest casualties of rapid supermarket expansion, the retail outlets have failed to disrupt business for vegetable stores, mainly run by women.

The businesses, locally known as mama mboga, which means a woman selling vegetables, have fended off the muscles and predatory nature of supermarkets.

The women have remained the preferred choice for consumers, who want to buy different kinds of vegetables, tomatoes, onions, fruits, potatoes and other related food items.

This is despite the fact that the supermarkets have established sections where they sell all manner of groceries to woo shoppers.

“I have not experienced any drop in sales ever since two leading supermarkets were established in this area,” Nancy Kimani, a vegetable seller in Komarock, a suburb on the east of the capital said on Saturday. “People still come to buy here vegetables, onions and tomatoes despite the supermarkets stocking the items.”

One of the supermarkets, Naivas, was established in the area about five years ago while the second one, Setlight, is about two years old. A third retail chain, Nakumatt, is set to set shop in the area soon.

“Naivas is the biggest. When the retail outlet started its operations in this area, it was not selling groceries. At that time, I did not fear for my business but after about two years, they began stocking groceries that included tomatoes and onions,” she said.

As many other women in the trade, Kimani recounted she knew her business may collapse.

“I visited the supermarket soon after they established the groceries’ section and believed my business will not survive. Various kinds of vegetables, including traditional ones, tomatoes, garlic, hot pepper and onions were neatly arranged on the shelves, ” she said.

Her fears were informed by the fact that many people were turning the supermarkets into their preferred shopping stores.

“Besides that, I had seen a friend close her shop because of the two supermarkets. People were no longer buying things like sugar, bread and milk from shops yet these were the shopkeepers’ mainstay,” she said.

Kimani continued with her business as she prayed the worst does not happen. About two years down the line, time has proved her right.

Her business has not only survived, but it has also flourished despite the presence of the supermarkets.

She has been able to expand it, enabling her customers to buy different kinds of vegetables, including traditional ones, which have become popular among Kenyans.

“I have seen the effect of supermarket on shops but for us, we have been lucky since our businesses have defied the retail outlets. My sales have increased and I am hoping to open another grocery in a different part of the estate,” she said.

UCT Landscape Architecture students win 3 out of 4 prizes in international design competition

Congratulations to University of Cape Town Landscape Architecture students


Five Master of Landscape Architecture students entered an international student competition for the redesign of a portion of the Nairobi River running through the centre of Nairobi.

The students proposed creative solutions to the challenges facing cities and the design and planning of rivers that run through them.

Three of the students were placed in the top four, including wining first prize of $1000.

The competition was judged by five international landscape architects with the award ceremony being held at the International Federation of Landscape Architects Africa Symposium held in the first week of October in Nairobi.

The student’s projects were praised for the high quality of the landscape architectural concepts, the level of innovation, the depth of ecological aspects and the feasibility of the overall projects.

Prize winners:

Winning entry: Ke Lu – University of Cape Town ($1000)

Project title: Reincarnation Landscape

Click thumbnails to view large..

Runner up: Ancunel Steyn – University of Cape Town ($600)

Project title: Metamorphosis: Transforming river, transforming lives

Special Prize (Most environmentally responsive design):
Julia McLachlan – University of Cape Town ($500)

Project title: Flowing waters: Cultural and knowledge streams

Introducing the Solar-powered Motorbike

Showing that Africa is not so behind in things technical and  “green” a news report from thisbigcity

By Gitonga Nijeru at Green Futures

Researchers from Moi University, Kenya, have designed an electric motorbike to run on batteries which can be charged by solar PV. The first motorbikes could be on the roads by mid-2012, following patenting of the concept. Jeremy Muriuki, 26, one of the project innovators from Moi University, claims the bikes can run for an average of 24 hours on a single charge, with a top speed of 75km/h.

Interest in solar powered devices has risen rapidly since the Kenyan Government announced a tax cut of 15% on the sale of all solar products in June 2010.

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Kenyan farmers use SMS to beat climate-driven price uncertainty

Technology of the cities making the world flat….

Source: Alertnet // Isaiah Esipisu

KEmfarm510William Muriuki and his wife Ruth on their vegetable farm near Meru, central Kenya. ALERTNET/Isaiah Esipisu

By Isaiah Esipisu

MERU, Kenya (AlertNet) – William Muriuki and his wife are inspecting their vegetable farm in the tiny village of Karimagachiije, some 15 km outside Meru town in central Kenya. Cabbages, onions and Irish potatoes are ready to go to market. But the question is where?

Identifying the best market never used to be a problem, explains the 73-year-old farmer. “It was easy to tell what vegetables were in season in a particular area, so we knew the most appropriate places to sell our farm produce.”

But changing climatic conditions have disrupted market patterns. “It is no longer as predictable as it was,” he says. “We have to physically identify places with high demand.”

Even fairly recently, local farmers could be sure the rains would come around March 25 each year. So by the end of April, most vegetables would be in season, meaning low demand at nearby markets. In much of Eastern Province though, the rains would be delayed or not arrive at all, so farmers from the central region knew they could get a good price for their produce there.

But that’s no longer the case. “In the past few years, I have seen rains come much earlier than expected, or very late,” says Muriuki. “At times, it rains in Eastern Province much earlier or at the same time as it does here, or it fails to rain in both areas.”

In these challenging conditions, Muriuki and his farming colleagues have turned to technology to help them find the right market. Continue reading