Farmers return to fruit farming on attractive market pay

Dismal farm gate prices, erratic markets and unscrupulous traders have sounded the death knell on fruit production in the country, but a group of individual farmers are unfettered and have gone ahead to earn upto 30 percent more than the farm gate price thanks to a new model.

Mama Njeri one such farmer in Central Kenya has 25 acres of land which produces mangoes and other crops. But like many farmers in the area, she has had to contend with poor farm practices, poor seeds and lack of steady market.

But a project by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, TechnoServe and the Coca-Colasystem that buys directly from farmers at competitive market price is giving her and other farmers a sigh of relief and leaving her to trouble herself with production.

Dubbed, Project Nurture the project develops local sourcing for mango and passion fruits and juices in Kenya and Uganda, benefiting local farmers, the local fruit market and the Coca-Cola supply chain. Farmers receive access to financial services and training in sustainable farming including crop husbandry, agronomic practices, record keeping, negotiating skills, marketing and group governance to help them form coops that can work together to sell and distribute their products. The initiative aims to help 54,000 small farms -- 30 percent of which are run by women -- double their income.

Today, Mama Njeri is a member of Karima Fruit Growers producer business group (PBG).Project Nurture has linked her to East African Growers (a local exporter), juice processors and traders from Kenyan markets who purchase her mangoes regularly at competitive prices.

Local farmers now leverage their collective bargaining power and economies of scale, increasing incomes and quality of life across the region. Mama also uses her farm to train her neighbors, demonstrate good agricultural practices -- and serve as an example to women everywhere.

"This is a lady who could be doing any other business, but she chose to come and do farming. She brought together a business solution to this dry area that grows the crop, and that is something that gives farmers the inspiration to go out there. This is a mother, this is a woman, this is one of us doing it. We can go out there and do it." - Henry Kinya, TechnoServe project manager.