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Face behind Nairobi’s first farmers’ market

High costs, unreliable supply and poor produce quality of produce has plagued customers for years, but Mashine Munene hopes to change this with his newest project

Seth Onyango @SethManex

Mashine Munene has had the Midas touch on many blue chip projects in his illustrious career as a project manager.

But nothing has quite excited him as much as his current assignment: midwifing the Nairobi Farmers’ Market (NFM) primed to revolutionise grocery shopping in Nairobi.

“What I find enthralling about the NFM is the many ways it is going to affect so many people. From the farmers who are, finally, going to get a fair price for their produce to the consumers who are not only going to enjoy affordable produce, but will also be assured of food that is clean and safe for consumption,” says the professional who was involved in shepherding the Zamani Business Park in Karen, Woodcreek School and Vantage Square.

It is his imprint in moulding such successful ventures that has distinguished him from his peers. Therefore, it was only natural for him to be picked as the pioneer manager of NFM, set to launch in the Nairobi’s Runda neighbourhood.

For Munene, the hallmark of his approach has always been to ensure efficient use of resources during the construction process and contributing to the overall business development.

It is the same approach he has deployed at NFM. “We ensure it’s not just about the buildings, but even more so the value that the buildings bring into the proposed business.”

Built for convenience

For NFM, Munene is also involved in designing a home delivery platform, complete with a mobile app that will add unfettered convenience to the shopping experience.

“We want to make home deliveries a major part of the business. We are in the process of developing an app that will allow Nairobians to shop at the market from the comfort of their homes. This is the modern way to do things,” he adds.

The NFM is pegged on the idea that brokers are not needed to bring food from the farm to the stalls. With this set-up, farmers, who are stall owners, will sell their own produce – no brokers at all.

“When brokers contract farmers to produce on their behalf, the price is agreed in advance; and is consistent, not the usual determination by the day’s or week’s level of supply,” Munene adds.

While the market was originally conceived as a means of providing an efficient outlet for farmers who have for long been at the mercy of market systems dominated by ruthless brokers and avaricious resellers who reap all the benefits from farming, the promoters soon realised that there were many other issues that needed to be addressed in the fresh produce value chain.

“We have found that there are very few quality controls where food meant for the local market is concerned. While there are very strict protocols governing the growing and post-harvest handling of export produce, it is a free-for-all when it comes to local stuff. Just look at the mess in our main markets in Nairobi and Mombasa, for example, and you will understand what I am talking about,” he told People Plus.

Thorough selection

The NFM is designed as a mall- only it is for agricultural produce. It will hold about 60 farmers, but according to Munene, the number is not exact, as some farmers have already taken double stalls.

The smallest unit costs Sh15,000, and to get one, a farmer needs to fill out a detailed questionnaire outlining their farming methods, range of crops, acreage as well as the ability to make an investment, on which the selection is based on that a selection is made.

Munene says the selection is through so that only those who follow good agricultural practices get the space. Farmers are encouraged to contract and supervise other farmers to produce on their behalf to meet the anticipated huge turnover as long as the same strict controls are maintained. Regular and random inspections will be carried out to ensure that the standards are maintained all the time.

“We are also very concerned with the way they handle the produce after harvest,” he says.

Future plans

NFM, which is under construction in the Runda area—on Kiambu Road—will largely sell fresh produce but also includes many other products in six speciality centres in the market: exotic foods centre; honey centre; fish and seafood centre; wellness centre; the Mwea rice centre, bound to make it one of the country’s most unique shopping destinations.

“We will have the Mwea Rice Centre where pishori will be sold at exactly the same prices you would get in Mwea. There is also the Exotic Foods Centre, which has more than 10 shops selling products that are popular with many non-Kenyan communities. Some of these will be imported, but a lot of them will be grown locally.

And finally, the Meat Centre will host a number of shops selling a wide variety of animal proteins, with stringent efforts being made to ensure that the appropriate standards are maintained,” he said.

But perhaps the biggest catch for most city residents is a Wellness Centre that will be housed within the facility, with different stalls selling a wide range of super foods and other wellness products.

The market developed by a local company, United Agromarts Limited, will be the first in the city and  although there are no concrete plans for another market at the moment, they are open to such in the future.

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