The vibrant cosmetics industry is giving Kenyan farmers a new market for avocadoes as companies incorporate it in their products. The production of avocado in Kenya is estimated at 115.000 metric tons per year, 70% of which is grown by small-scale farmers.
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The main areas where avocados are grown in Kenya are the central highlands of Kenya mainly Thika, Muranga, Nyeri, Embu and Meru areas. However, there are other avocado growing zones outside Central Kenya. These include Eldoret, Kisii, Subukia, Nakuru and Naivasha. One box of fresh Kenya avocado retails at around sh460 in Nairobi, packed and ready for shipment.
An avocado farmer in Central Kenya holding her produce ready for market
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“One of the products in high demand in the beauty industries is avocadoes; avocado oil is used to make lotions which are very good on the skin as they fight bacterial and fungal infections, the same oil can be used to make soaps” says Lilian Muturi, an entrepreneur in the beauty sector and a researcher at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.
“I urge graduates who are looking for jobs to venture into farming as the demand for agricultural products used in the beauty sector is big, graduates should not just stay idle and wait for employment”
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Indeed, by engaging in the growing of certain plants, farmers can benefit from the small and medium enterprises that are processing products using raw materials that are directly sourced from the farm. Olivado for instance, a company that deals with avocado products supports more than 1350 farmers in central Kenya. The company has a capacity of 900MT of organic extra virgin avocado oil per year.
Aloe vera is another plant that has seen increased demand due to its benefits in skin care. A kilogram of the plants’ fresh leaves is retailing at sh35 up from sh25, two years ago, according to local processor Herbal Garden Limited.
It used to make aloe vera lotions and bathing soaps that as acts a remedy for skin conditions, including burns, sunburn, frostbite, psoriasis and cold sores. Aloe vera can be grown in Ukambani and coastal areas with sandy soils. The best type of sandy soil for this crop is one that mimics the dirt found in the desert. It should be rocky and with low water content.
Honey is also a major component in the manufacturing sector as is used by pharmaceuticals and companies in the beauty sector. Kenya’s potential for apiculture development is estimated at over 100,000 tonnes of honey and 10,000 tonnes of beeswax per annum according to the Kenya Honey Council.
“Other than being applied on bread, they can also be mixed with lotions so as to prevent viral infections on the skin including rashes and pimples” said Muturi.
The growing demand for local agricultural produce will help create employment especially the youth who can venture into farming as a full time job. Unemployed youth can also act as agents to supply the companies with the much needed produce and link farmers with the market.