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    Mukombero

    By George Munene

    Through the Kakamega Natural Forest Catchment Conservation Organization, KANFCCO, Mukombero farmers in Kakamega County have signed a deal to supply 100 metric tonnes of the herbal root to Germany every year.

    With a ready market secured, KANFCCO—which currently has about 360 farmers in its books—is recruiting growers of Mukombero (Mondia whitei) as well as other medicinal tuber plants like Maruku or lesser yam (Dioscorea esculenta).

    “To archive the export quantities required by German company Man Fields we will need to expand our pool of farmers to at least 2000,” explained James Ligare, KANFCCO’s secretary. 

    Founded in 2018, KANFCCO is an umbrella body charged with the environmental conservation and equal benefit sharing of Kakamega’s genetic resources. Together with the Kakamega County government, Ministry of Agriculture, and ward administrators it has been mandated to ensure sufficient Mukombero is being produced across the region to meet this growing export demand.

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    This is made even harder to achieve given the wild vine flourishes agronomically when grown in tropical climates with sufficient rainfall. Being a community organisation, KANFCCO also deals exclusively with farmers based in Kakamega.

    The few farmers growing the indigenous aromatic roots of Mukombero are a satisfied lot:” Compared to maize and sugarcane—crops I previously relied on—Mukombero has so far given me the best return on my investment,” elatedly said Alfred Wafula, an early Mukombero farming convert.

    Thought of sorely as an aphrodisiac, the mention of Mukombero often invites averted snickers among Kenyans. The woody climbing plant however has a myriad of other health benefits. Among them, as an immune booster, and sedative that alleviates symptoms of hypertension as well as insomnia. It also contains essential nutrients such as Vitamins A, D, E, and K and vital minerals like Sodium, Calcium, Zinc, and Iron.

    It can be consumed after a quick wash as a fresh root or value-added powder, natural wine, juice, or yogurt. 

    Mukombero wine

    All these variants of Mukombero can be accessed locally through KANFCCO or its affiliate outlets. The body is also keen on adding value to the plant’s roots before export as this will ensure farmers reap maximum returns. 

    The crop takes three years to mature and with good agronomic practices is harvestable every three months for up to five years.

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    “Being a climber Mukombero is best grown intercropped with trees such as the Sesbania sesban, a soft-wooded tree that grows rapidly and is useful for fodder and green manure. The soil needs to be farmed to a fine tilth to encourage tuber growth,” Ligare illuminated. 

    Farmers can purchase Mukombero for propagation from KANFCCO at Sh 50 a seedling or Sh 5000 for one kilogram of seed.

     

    KANFCCO: 0738944555/ 0728 738631/ 0721329061
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    Avocado

    By George Munene

     

    Speaking during the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) 93rd Annual General Meeting, Kakuzi PLC Chairman Nicholas Ng'ang'a said the firm will this year invest more than Sh400 million in capital expenditures (CAPEX) focusing on upscaling the value of its smallholder avocados farmers’ operations. 

    "The global market is responding positively to Kenyan avocados due to their high potential to provide good quality fruits but, we must work tirelessly to secure this market positioning by focusing on the quality aspects," Ng'ang'a said. He added that "to secure this market positioning, Kakuzi will step up its effort to strengthen the capacity of our smallholders to meet the stringent quality and phytosanitary standards required at the global markets."

    At the virtually held event, Mr. Ng'ang'a pointed out that focusing on lifting its smallholder farmers' value would complement its production capacities and boost the global positioning of Kenyan avocados.

    “It's critical that markets only receive good quality fruits from Kenya, and to achieve this, building knowledge of the market requirements amongst farmers is very important,” he said.

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     The Company he added has secured lucrative markets for Kenyan agriproduce such as avocados and macadamia and will continue adopting a shared prosperity approach by integrating smallholders.

    Alongside the smallholder avocado development plans, the integrated agro-business firm is focusing on developing its other core agribusiness lines; macadamia, forestry and cattle while experimenting with the new blueberry venture.

    The firm's chairman added that they are exploring value addition opportunities in a number of these crops.

    "The markets for Kakuzi's avocados remained solid, despite the almost complete closure of the food retail sector across our main markets. We expect that there will be some recovery in 2021, but this is not guaranteed. To mitigate this, we continue to trade with our traditional buyers as well as some key new players across 14 different countries," Ng'ang'a said.

    Related News: Global avocado demand projected to double by 2024.

    At the AGM, the firm's shareholders unanimously voted for a Sh18 dividend per share, representing a 28.5 per cent growth from the Sh14 dividends paid out the previous year and making Kakuzi PLC one of the best performing returns on investment firms at the NSE.

    Last year, Kakuzi achieved robust results for the year, despite the uncertainty in its main sales markets caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic. The firm posted a Sh848 million pre-tax profit representing a 16 per cent drop from Sh1,014 billion realized the previous year.

    The firm's avocado and macadamia export volumes were higher than 2019 but not sufficient to mitigate a significant reduction of 34 per cent in the price of avocados due to higher global supply.

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    KAKUZI PLC AVOCADO PACKHOUSE

    By George Munene 

     

    Kenyan integrated agro-business firm Kakuzi PLC has celebrated the operationalisation of the new Port of Lamu with an inaugural 80-ton cargo of Avocados destined for France.

     

    This follows a 93 per cent rise in the demand for Kenyan avocado to Sh4.26 billion in the first three months of 2021 per data from Kenya’s Horticulture Directorate.  

     

    Fresh Hass avocados grown at the Kakuzi PLC Makuyu orchards were loaded onto five containers on cargo Ship MV Seago Bremerhaven which docked at the Port of Lamu en-route to the Port of Marseille-Fos, France.

     

    Speaking when he confirmed the firm’s export load, Kakuzi Managing Director Chris Flowers said the operationalization of the port provides wider benefits for agribusiness firms that import farm inputs and export produce. 

     

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    “As a truly Kenyan agribusiness firm, we are excited at the operationalization of the first berth at the Port of Lamu. This development begins to crystallize the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport Corridor project, which will benefit Kenyan producers immensely and congratulate the Government and the Kenya Ports Authority among the other development partners for this milestone,” Flowers said.

     

    Grown in Makuyu, Murang’a County, the Kakuzi Avocado fruit, Flowers said, is steadily enjoying market preference due to its high quality. “Our location provides a temperate climate which is perfectly suited to the production of avocado. From seedling to fork, we have full control over the entire value chain, ensuring complete traceability and a high-quality product,” he assured.

     

    The picking of fruits from farms is outsourced to a clearing and forwarding firm, Volcan, which transports the avocados to Lamu,

     

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    Each avocado container is a 40-foot shipping container with a controlled atmosphere cooling system that keeps the air at 6 degrees and scrubs the air to prevent the fruit from ripening before it arrives. On average, each container holds about 20,000 kilos of fruit packed into 4-kilo cartons. There are about 5,200 cartons in each container.

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