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    By Brian Moseti

    An increase in appetite for traditional African vegetables (TAVs) is opening up new markets for Kenyan farmers abroad. The demand has been brought about by a rise in the numbers of Africans immigrating to the US, Europe and Australia. 

    This is in addition to the reduction of barriers in accessing these markets as a result of ongoing deals between the Kenyan government and their counterparts abroad

    Negotiations on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regulationshave helpeddevelop food safety standards that allow locally certified products by institutions such as the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) to enter the European market. Similar discussions with the US are ongoing,” said Peterson Nyanchwayathe Manager of Trade Advisory Services at the Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency

    Related News: Processor guarantees prices for organic and traditional outgrowers

    Related News: JKUAT selling nine varieties of indigenous vegetables released by KEPHIS

    Following the continued removal ofnon-tariff barriersKenyan farmers are now finding it easy to access profitable markets outside the continent. 

    “It is now less hectic to sell your products in developed countries provided you meet the required safety thresholds,” said Marion Wesonga, a farmer from Kakamega, who independently exports dried vegetables to clients in the UK after acquiring the necessary certifications

    Ms. Wesonga, who stayed in the UK for five years, between 2013 and 2018, realised a demand for indigenous African vegetables as saga (African spiderweed), kunde (cowpeas)terere (amaranth) and managu (black nightshade) from the Kenyan community abroad. 

    “It is quite difficult to get the vegetables we are used to in foreign countries, hence the need to source them from Africa,” said Wesonga, who exports dried vegetables, which fetch her almost five times the price in local markets.

    Yet, one does not need foreign contacts to enter the export market. Locally, there are several companies that contract farmers to produce vegetables, spices and other horticultural crops, which they then process and sell outside the country. 

    For the average farmer, partnering with these companies is ideal as it reduces the number of engagementsare involved in before selling their produce. One such company is Mace Foods, which mainly serves farmers from Western Kenya. 

    Founded in 2002, Mace Foods specializes in dehydrated spicesindigenous vegetables andherbs. The company offers contracted farmers the support needed in the production process and a guaranteed market for their produce. Presently, Mace has contracts with 1,810 farmers from 14 counties, but it plans to expand its database to 4,000 farmers by the end of 2021.

    Related News: Nutritionist makes flour from traditional vegetable through value addition

    “For us to meet the demand in international markets, we need to increase the number of farmers we work with by more than twice,” said the company’s founder and managing director, Margaret Komen. 

    In its expansion plan, Mace is working with a KSh54.41million loan from Kenya Climate Ventures, which will go into managing collection points, processing infrastructure and certification processes for farmer groups.

    For more information on how to reach the export market, contact the Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agencythrough phone:0722205875 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

    To reach Mace Foods for information on the farmer contracting process call:0720391290

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    By George Munene

    The Farmer Service Center is made up of a network of over 300 agricultural extension workers in 12 counties that help farmers with the entire farm to market value chain. 

    Started in January 2020, through its extensive network FSC helps farmers source ready markets for their crops before they even begin work on their farms. This is extended to the marketing of their crops as well as helping farmers gain basic financial literacy. At the farm level, farmers are trained on proper agronomy and correct post-harvest handling practices.

    They also aggregate demand for products and services from disparate smallholder farmers—leveraging on the economies of purchasing in bulk to coordinate with agricultural service providers and have inputs delivered at the local level and at subsidised costs. These products and services include farm inputs such as fertilisers, pesticides, tractor tilling services, etc.

    Related News: Digital marketplace enrolling farmers to meet global demand

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    “It is comparatively cheaper to order for 100 bags of fertiliser than it is for two, similarly it is far more expensive to order tractor services to plough an acre as opposed to having 100 acres of farmland tilled,” explains Geoffrey Wanjala, Busia’s FSC Senior Agribusiness Cordinator.

    Farmers are able to source for most of their inputs from the comfort of their homes reducing the usual overheads they would incur in transport costs.

    The satellite FSCs also in turn help buyers mobilise agricultural commodities in bulk and from one central point reducing their logistics costs.

    “Our farmer service center persons work from their own homes, others have physical centers and mini agrovets at the grassroot level; helping bridge the market access gap for agro-input manufacturers who mostly just have sales representative interacting with local farmers,” Wanjala elucidates. 

    To keep the model running and have it be impactful, Geoffrey contends that FSC officials need mentoring to shift from previously being farming group leaders to become entrepreneurs; some have opened agrovets within their localities as well as getting a cut from suppliers from the inputs deliverd to farmers. They also get a token of appreciation from buyers whom they help source for produce. Through the TOT, training of trainers, partnership model with companies within the agricultural space FSCs get assistance in building their capacity to be more effective with their help to farmers.

    Related News: Processor guarantees prices for organic and traditional outgrowers

    Depending on their regions, Farmer Service Centre personnel are partly chosen for their specialisation in the agricultural value chain of the various crops. 

    The Farmer Service Network can also be accessed online through Facebook where farmers can acquire agribusiness solution tips, have answers to any agricultural questions and referred to the FSC officers available in their regions.

    Farmer Service Centre

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    By George Munene

    Affluent Farmers, a Njiru-based agriculture start-up is training farmers and buying back their mushrooms as well as giving them access to mushroom markets.

    Mushroom farming has risen in popularity because of its low starting up costs and requiring very little space to setup, the fungi is also a high-value crop with a kilo fetching up to Sh800.

    “The company’s birth a year ago was driven by the constant question we would get after sharing information on our journey in mushroom farming; mushrooms are lucrative but delicate crops and farmers often lack the right information on their growing and market linkages,” explains Ephantus Kibe, Affluent’s co-founder.

    Related News: FarmBiz TV:Mushrooms from beginner to advanced create higher earnings with more skills.

    Related News: Mushrooms sales suffer sudden drop on hospitality close-down

    “We offer farmers standardised two days training at a cost of Sh3000. This entails giving them all the theoretical material they need and taking them through its growing process on our urban farm at Mwiki, Kasarani,” says Kibe. “We also follow up with our trained farmers by buying back their mushrooms as well as sourcing for and giving them access to markets and middlemen given our long-established contacts in the mushroom trade,” he adds.

    Mushrooms are sold in punnets; 250 gram containers that fetch between Sh100 and Sh200 each depending on variety and seasonality which drives demand. A two kilogram polythene bag can produce 600 grams of mushroom.

    The main varieties grown in Kenya are the oyster and button mushroom. Button mushrooms which are white or brown and are named for their button-shaped fruiting body have a higher demand amongst consumers for their familiarity with them and are perceived to have a better taste.

    “Like with most agricultural sectors, we have also been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic; most spawn/ seed used to grow mushrooms is sourced from imports from South Africa which have been disrupted by the cessation of cross-border travel. This led to a spike in prices that has been counterweighed by the closure of hotels which make up our main markets,” Kibe says.       

    Related News: Herb exporter guarantees market for chilli, ginger, garlic contracted farmers

    For mushrooms, all a farmer needs is a grow house, spawn/seeds, substrate(mushroom feed)—this can be sawdust, straw, bean husks or any other agricultural waste that can form a bed mushrooms can feed on. One tone of sawdust can be used to feed 500 bags 2kg growing bags. The temperature inside the house needs to be kept between 18-25 °C and at humidity levels of 75 to 90%. This makes stone or mud houses ideal for growing mushrooms as, unlike iron sheet houses both the humidity and temperature within them are easily regulated.

    Other factors to consider are maintenance of high hygiene levels and having access to water that is used to lower temperatures in the grow house.

    Oyster mushrooms grow in one and a half months while buttons take two to two and a half months to harvest.  

    Affluent Farmers: 0756832065

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