Influence of integration of open-air markets on food security in Meru South and Mbeere Districts, Kenya
Mwithirwa, Ken Gatobu
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The relationship between agricultural marketing systems and food security has continued to attract a lot of attention both locally and globally. This has been due to realization that increased food production does not automatically lead to improved food security. Markets and marketing components have been viewed to have influence on food security, however, the degree of influence varies from region to region and it's determined by a number of factors. This study was, therefore, conducted to determine the influence of integration of open-air markets on food security in Mbeere and Meru South districts of Eastern Province, Kenya. The study analyzed the spatio-temporal distribution of open-air markets, computed price disparities for maize and beans retail prices and assessed factors that influenced market operations and how each factor influenced food availability and accessibility in the area. The primary data were collected using semi- structured interview schedules administered to traders while secondary data were collected mainly from the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and local government offices. Simple random sampling was used to sample markets in which surveys were administered; purposive sampling to sample open-air markets upon which retail prices for maize and beans were collected and systematic sampling was used to sample traders who were interviewed. In total one hundred and thirty one traders were interviewed in both districts. Data generated was coded, keyed in excel and analyzed using Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS). Nearest neighbours' indices was used to compute the nearest neighbor distance between markets. The study revealed that the nearest neighbour statistics (Rn) was 1.53 and 1.62 for open air markets in Meru South and Mbeere Districts respectively. Since the Rn values were more than 1, the markets were evenly distributed. The calculated Z-scores values were 4.13 and 3.24 respectively which were all significant at 0.05 confidence level. These results showed that open air markets and market days within the study area were uniformly distributed. On average, each market place had two markets days in a week. These results further showed that the spatio-temporal distribution of open air markets was sufficient to efficiently serve all participants in the region. The analyses of price disparities revealed existence of high price differences between some markets either within the same district or across the two districts. The high price differences indicated that the open air markets were poorly integrated. However, the poor market integration witnessed in the area did not result from the spatio-temporal distribution of the markets but from a range of factors which includes; transportation challenges, lack of storage facilities, lack of standardized unit of measurement, lack of access to adequate capital and poor market information flow. Each of these factors had profound influence on food security by influencing food availability and accessibility in the area. Therefore to enhance the contribution of open-air markets in promoting food security, the study has recommended both institutional and infrastructural interventions. These include improvement of the rural transport network to ensure efficient flow of goods especially from surplus regions to deficit regions, formulation of policies to regulate pricing, standardizing of units of quantity measurement, establishment of effective and efficient mechanism for enhancing market information flow and addressing the storage challenges. In addition, there is need to enhance the operation of National Cereals Produce Board (NCPB) within the study area to help in price regulation and quality checking. This will guarantee reasonable prices and which will benefit both farmers and consumers
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