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April 19 - 24, 2013


 Coastweek   Kenya

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Heavy rains spoil business for
upcountry open air traders

According to the Kenya Meteorological
Department, Kenya is experiencing a major
rainfall season, which began in March to May


NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Traders selling goods at open air markets in Kenya are counting losses as heavy rains disrupt business.

The rains, which started late, last month, have become the traders’ worst nightmare as they keep customers away.

Open air markets in Kenya are popular with traders, who sell items like fresh food, clothes, shoes and groceries. The markets are located in every city, town and village across the East African nation.

In the capital Nairobi, the open air markets are in every suburb and are sources of most items people need for their daily use. Thus, each day, they are usually filled to the brim with buyers.

But the heavy rains pounding the East African nation have spoilt business for both traders and buyers, with the worst hit being the former.

“We are losing a lot of business because of the rains. People are not coming to the market to buy items due to the rains. Sometimes they start early or during peak hours,” Gregory Wamae, a trader dealing in second hand clothes at Mutindwa market on the east of Nairobi said on Saturday.

Since the month started, Wamae said he has barely made any meaningful business because of the rains.

“The rains began late last month. Then, their pattern was predictable. They would fall late evening or at night. They did not affect us much because of the pattern, but this month things changed. They are coming sometimes during the day making business difficult since we have to close business,” he said.

According to Wamae, business peaks at the market mainly in the evening when people are returning home from work.

“People pass by at the market to buy various items that include fruits, fresh food and clothes on their way home from work. This usually starts from 3 p.m. to about 8 p.m,” he said.

It is this time that in the recent days it has been raining heavily in the capital spoiling business for the traders.

“We want the rains to come so that people can plant crops and we have food as a country. But they have become so unpredictable and changed pattern. In the past, they would mostly rain at night, but now we cannot tell. They start any time,” said Wamae. 

According to the Kenya Meteorological Department, Kenya is experiencing a major rainfall season, which began in March to May.

Some areas in the East African nation are experiencing rainfall of up to 100mm  a day especially Western, Central, Coastal strip and parts of northern Kenya.

The department notes Nairobi mainly experiences rains in the morning and afternoon, which are normally accompanied by showers and thunderstorms.

Temperatures in the capital range from between 25-36 degrees Celsius during the day and 14-25 degrees Celsius during the night. Since the rains started, Wamae said his sells have not been surpassing 17 U.S. dollars.

“It has become hard to make any meaningful business. You go at the market, spread your wares and as soon as you hope to start selling the rains start. You then have to close your stall and wait for them to stop. The problem is that when they start, people keep off the market. Before the rains, I was making up to 35 dollars a day,” he said.

A similar predicament befalls traders at Gikomba, which is Kenya’s biggest second hand items market in the capital. Traders and consumers also visit the market to buy fresh produce at wholesale prices.

From a far, the market looks like a big pool of mud with stagnant water at several places completing its landscape. Roads at the market are impassable due to mud and stagnant water making it difficult for people to access traders.

“The situation is very bad at the market. Business has gone down because of the rains,” said Stephen Mutua, a trader. For traders at the market, their plight is double fold because of the poor road network.

“People are not coming here in droves only because of the rains, the poor road network is another factor. The roads have rendered the market impassable. They are filled with water and mud,” said Mutua.

Traders at the market noted that customer traffic has dwindled in huge numbers since the start of the rains, thus their profits.

“Sometime a day passes without raining but the fact that the roads remain waterlogged keep customers away. No one wants to come to a place where they will have difficulties accessing,” said Peterson Ngatia, a trader at the market.

At the market, the poor road network has brought business for some people who have set up stands to wash customers’ shoes and legs.

“Those people are making good money. They wash shoes and legs of customers coming from the market. They charge between 0.05 dollars and 0.11 dollars depending on the shoes,” said Ngatia.

Traders are praying that the long rain season ends so that business can return to normal. However, it is not only the open air traders who are crying foul, traders operating formal shops have also recorded decline in activities because of the rains.

“Most of the time when it starts raining, people strive to rush home, which means they do not stay in town for instance to drink coffee or shop,” said Nancy Adhok, who operates a clothes stall in the capital.


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