The Food Prices In The Kakuma Refugee Camp Markets
The food prices in the Kakuma refugee market and the availability of the required commodities by the consumers at the market have been challenging for the local residents and the refugee communities.
The Kakuma camp is quiet isolated within the region of Turkana North District and it is a “Small City” of its own kind. The transportation of the food to the market is very difficult and expensive hence causing scarcity of food shortage often with the only single high way in the region.
At the camp level, majority of the sellers and the buyers were both the refugees and the local Turkana’s (Habitats) and the business shops and the stores were owned by the refugees living in the camp. Food products and goods were supplied by the Kenyan’s businessmen and the middle men from as far as Kitale and Ortum Town in west Pokot District which is the chief provider of the Vegetables and the other food produces. Supplies can be even obtained far beyond these towns depending on the demands at the camp.
Business men and women flocks in and out with variety of food products as freely exercised by the willing sellers to the willing buyers. Most of the business were run by the refugees and there were some connections between the business in the camp and out side, for instance Nairobi city act as a major connection towns that link the individual business entity to Neighboring countries like: Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda. In Ethiopia majorly, food spices are obtained and were ordered through Nairobi and this items are sold at a higher prices in the camp markets while from Somalia refugees trade food products like the dates and animal produces via Nairobi or other food items through Kampala, due to nearness to the camp compared to other countries according to the business owners at the camp.
Depending on the availability of the food produces there was higher market demands, Hence this made business operation to be very complex here in the camp, when you look at the camp environment in relation to the availability of the market and the shopping centers where almost every food items, goods and services can be found readily available like other developed towns in Kenya.
According to the owners of the stores/shops interviewed by KANERE journalist, they stated that there business does well because of the steady flow of the high demands that connects through Nairobi to or from other towns that encouraged availability of ready food and commodities supply as required by the market demands. “I can not buy this vegetates because there are very expensive. Some times we have to sell out our ration portion to get greens.” Said K.A. a buyer in Kakuma 1 markets.
Most of the businessmen also stated that, starting the business was very tough, however obtaining capital was very beyond the difficulty but few shops owners shared their experiences in the camp markets and how they managed to get the financial assistance from friends and relatives who live abroad hence get rooted and expanded. “My brother was resettled to U.S three years ago and my friends knows of my sufferings in the camp so i got financial support and started my food shop in 2006.” said James in an interview with KANERE journalist in the Ethiopian market.
KANERE also interviewed many of the Somali business owners whom were the most leading food and vegetable sellers in the market. Many of the businesswomen stated that obtaining capital was very hard while management was also challenging. “Capital is hard but i started business by signing an agreement form. I was given food stock on credit and i could pay back in 2 months on operating my shop.” said Halima .I. in an interview with KANERE.
The prices of the commodities in the Kakuma camp market is relatively very high compared to most of the other towns in the region and other refugee camps in Africa. For instance food prices in Nairobi is very low compare to the camp food prices to see into what amount of money can buy what: 1 Kg of tomato is sold at Ksh 40-50 while at the camp it’s sold at 90-100 Ksh, 1 Kg of sugar is sold at 75-80 Ksh in towns like: Kitale,Nakuru and Ortum while at the camp it is sold at Ksh 100 at a flat rate.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are very cheaply sold in most parts of Kenya towns at about Ksh 2 bob for a single tomato, Ksh 6 bob for 2 oranges and pieces of mangoes but on reaching the kakuma refugee camp market a single tomato can not be brought with less than Ksh 7-10 bob and a single medium size orange or banana can not be obtained below Ksh 10-15. Additionally a bottle of beverage soda 500ml cost Ksh 50 in the camp while it’s marked price is Ksh 28 only.
As the price fluctuation varies there was no price control in the camp market and food prices shoot at a very high rate due to the increasing high demands of the consumer while the supply is very poor and competitive. The consumers vaguely around the market with their few coins to get some stuffs to prepare meals daily and many refugees finds it difficult to purchase food items. “i have been a shop keeper for now 5 years. the prices of the food are increasing every week in our market, which i know is bad for the customers. Its difficult also to obtain food produces so we sell at a high prices to cope with the high cost of the supplies.” said Ifraham.M. at the main refugee camp market in Kakuma 1.
According to some price equivalency work done by KANERE in comparison of the Kakuma refugee camp to Kala and Mwange refugee camp in Zambia, it illustrated the benefits of micro work for the refugees. It was found out that of commodities prices in terms of food which also seen to be very unfavorable for the refugees who lives below less than a half a dollar per day; where No cents (5 cents,50 cents and 1-4Ksh) and Coins below Ksh 5 bob can not be used in the Kakuma camp market to purchase any amount of the food and other goods, while in Kala and Mwange refugee camp: 5 cents can buy 2 small bunches of greens or 3-4 large bananas or 2-3 tomatoes and luckily 50 cents or 1 bob can be used to purchase more food items compared to Kakuma camp.
The camp was wide, so there was steady flow of business and stuffs going on at the market. Kakuma 1 is the biggest market center in the camp which also connects other smaller camp markets within other parts of the camps in Kakuma 2 phrase 2 and zone 2-3 markets.
However, there was no any kind of market control in the refugee camps. Some assessment was done by KANERE and it was found that there were no market control in the camps while in Kakuma town at least some market control are done through monitoring that was performed once in a while and most of the businesses food shops and centers were proven having license of operations, so there was great distinction at the two great markets.