Paul Mitei, a farmer from Kiptoben Village, Nakuru County, Kenya started growing avocados because other farmers in his community were also growing them
But due to poor crop management skills, the fruit yields were low with almost no profits. “Before the Forest and Farm Facility Programme (FFF) reached out to us, I faced many challenges in marketing the avocado produce from my farm,” says Paul.
Paul furthers adds that he wanted to know more about how the avocado and tomato value chains worked, and the essential inputs that are critical to avocado cultivation, and meeting market demands. To improve his knowledge, he joined the Nakuru Small Holder Fruit Producers Association (NASFPA), with the hope of growing the sales of his farm produce.
“Being a member of NASFPA, I am now well informed about how better market access can benefit from the FFF project. The initiative also gave me the opportunity to export my produce to Europe,” Paul said. He now produces high value fruits and sells together with his fellow NASFPA members. He has close to 104 avocado fruit trees, out of which 15 trees became fully matured last year. He harvested 500 kgs of fruit, and sold them for US$600.
Farmers' organisations support farmers' livelihoods
The Nakuru Small Holder Fruit Producers Association (NASFPA) was formed in July 2016, with support from the Forest and Farm Facility, a partnership involving the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and other partners. NASFPA’s membership cuts across Nakuru County, with 250 members and focuses on avocado and tomato farmers. The membership consists of business-oriented individual farmers and groups carrying out fruit farming. NASFPA is a member of the apex producer organisation in Kenya called Farm Forestry Smallholder Producers Association of Kenya (FFSPAK). It is supported by the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF).
Through FFSPAK, the group offers several services to members, such as training farmers, looking for suitable markets for products, and information collection and sharing.
Before FFF, farmers produced a wide range of products on their farms which had limited economic benefits. These crops included maize, beans, peas, cabbages, and potatoes, among others. Farmers also kept domestic animals such as cows, sheep, and chickens for food and as an investment. Many farmers operated individually, with little knowledge about farming, poor access to extension services and inputs, and lack of financing. This made production low in terms of both quantity and quality and led to low income.
At the start of the FFF initiative, NSAFPA distributed high-quality seedlings to farmers on a policy of 50% co-financing. This initiative was embraced so well that in a short time, all members had increased the number of fruit trees on their farms tremendously. The matured trees have then increased the volumes and quality of fruits, which has also allowed access to export markets.
Impact of exporting avocado to Europe
Farmers initially practiced subsistence farming and mixed a lot of crops, domestic animals, and trees. However, after they were organised into larger market-focused groups, they were taken through market analysis and development, where they prioritised avocados as the main enterprise. After this, they attended different trainings on organizational development, fruit tree production, business planning, risk management, and advocacy.
The farmers have now transformed their organisation and livelihoods for the better. They can focus on prioritised products, ensuring that quantities and quality produced are adequate, and offer them to the best-paying markets.
To achieve this, the farmers organised themselves into a farmers’ organisation that provides necessary services to members and implemented a well-defined business plan. At present, they can sell their avocados to exporters at US$1.09 (approximately)per kg, up from around the local rate of US$0.27 per kg (approximately). Since last year, their association was able to link members with an exporter of avocados, ensuring that they earn better incomes.
So far, NASFPA members have harvested 25,000 kgs of avocado for export, earning about US$22,500. With promising markets, an enabling business environment led by the government, and support from FFSPAK and FFF, NASFPA is in the process of transforming to a Nakuru Small Holder Fruit Cooperative Society, to enable scaling-up of production and greater marketing of their produce.
The Forest and Farm Facility is a global programme lead by FAO and supports Kenyan farmers’ organisations, such as the NASFPA through FFSPAK, improving the livelihoods of family farmers through an integrated set of initiatives to improve rural farming, forestry, and farmers’ organisations through collective action.