Direct access to markets by farmers and the role of traders: insights from Kenyan and Tanzanian leafy vegetables markets
The research literature shows that agriculture has potential for development, job creation and structural change if agricultural value chains are considered in their entirety: from inputs, to farm, through processing, until marketing. This is particularly important in the case of Africa, where agriculture contributes in a major way to GDP and employment. However, this focus on value chains does not seem to have been accompanied by attention to the diversity of actors operating along value chains. Based on an extensive literature review on access to markets by farmers and on participatory research with farmers, traders, and sectoral stakeholders of leafy vegetables value chains in Kenya and Tanzania, this study argues that the role played by traders in local fresh produce markets in Africa is poorly understood and supported. It is argued that powerful narratives about the benefits of direct access to market by farmers, which are also present in academic literature, are sometimes overoptimistic, or interpreted beyond their scope and applied regardless of the specific features of actors and produce. The study shows that the leafy vegetables trade provides self-employment for many women, and that it has positive impacts on other groups, notably farmers.