Making markets work for indigenous vegetables: Towards a sustainable food system in the Lake Naivasha Basin, Kenya
This paper (PDF) by ECDPM, looks at how to increase awareness and willingness of consumer to buy indigenous vegetables, and to ultimately make markets work for them. Like in other parts of Kenya, the population around Lake Naivasha produces and consumes various indigenous vegetables, such as black nightshade or amaranth. Despite their sustainability benefits, the local food system is reticent to expand the cultivation, marketability and consumption of indigenous vegetables. A key problem is that most Kenyan farmers rely on one crop: maize. Yet, monoculture often has repercussions for human health, agricultural biodiversity and the soil. A more systematic combination of indigenous vegetables and maize is particularly important in parts of Kenya, like Naivasha. One way to increase awareness would be to create labels or certificates to signal to consumer the sustainability benefits of indigenous vegetables. Options for this include ‘voluntary sustainability standards’, ‘landscape labels’ or ‘participatory guarantee systems’. These market schemes allow consumers to choose products that tend to be more nutritious, but often at a higher price. All three schemes are already used for various food products in Kenya. There are three recommendations for a process to set up similar schemes that could be possibly piloted: 1) Integrate sustainability benefits of indigenous vegetables into an existing market scheme; 2) Promote indigenous vegetables as organically produced food and benefit from the growing organic market in Kenya; 3) Involve public authorities closely in the set-up of a scheme to strengthen the policy, legal and institutional system that can support market development in favour of indigenous vegetables. Efforts to influence consumer demand should run parallel with strengthening and organising the supply of indigenous vegetables, meeting quantity and quality requirements. Concretely this means that action is needed in the first three phases of the value chain: provide high quality seed access, improve cultivation practices and improve harvest and post-harvest processing.