KENYA – The United States Agency for International Development-USAID has funded Strathmore University Business School (SBS) with USD 12 million on a 5-year program aimed at empowering rural small-scale farmers.

The program was outlined during an avocado consultative meeting organized by USAID in partnership with the Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya (FPC-Kenya).

The primary focus of the meeting was to address quality standards, compliance issues, and global market opportunities, with the goal of enhancing farmers’ production and overall well-being.

Dr. George Njenga, Chief of Party at USAID-USPP, highlighted the transformative impact avocados have had on communities, emphasizing the need to extend these benefits to smallholder farmers.

“In Kenya, the most benefiting from this sub-sector are the big players who controls the market at the expense of our small-scale farmers in the rural areas who are still poorly organised making capacity building on issues around standards adherence for them challenging,” said Njenga.

He expressed concerns about the dominance of large players in the market, leaving rural small-scale farmers poorly organized and lacking the capacity to adhere to standards.

To address these challenges, Njenga outlined the objectives of the 5-year program, implemented by Strathmore University Business School (SBS).

The program focuses on building resilient and sustainable businesses through three pillars: Agency and Voice of the Private Sector (AVPS), Kenya Small Business Development Centers (Kenya SBDC), and Transformational Resilience Programming (TRP).

Njenga emphasized the formation of 15 farmer production cooperatives across various counties, with a strong emphasis on training and inclusion, ensuring at least 40% women beneficiaries.

Dr. Caesar Mwangi, Dean of SBS at Strathmore University, expressed the institution’s commitment to supporting the program, stating their readiness to develop business networks that benefit women and youth, especially those in arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) communities.

Amb – Prof Bitange Ndemo, Kenya’s Ambassador to Belgium & EU, emphasized the need for farmers to adapt to the changing global business environment.

He highlighted the importance of sustainability, technology, and globalization, citing examples of Artificial Intelligence being used in developed countries to enhance quality during and post-production processes.

Dr. Andrew Edewa, Director of Standards at TradeMark Africa, emphasized the significance of compliance with standards such as Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) as essential for global market competitiveness. He stressed the necessity of training farmers and exporters to meet these standards.

As Kenya anticipates the upcoming avocado season in three weeks, Mr. Okisegere Ojepat, the CEO at FPC Kenya, expressed optimism about a 10-12% increase in production volume.

He highlighted the importance of good rain and capacity-building exercises during the off-season, ensuring farmers comply with required standards. Ojepat underlined that avocados for export must attain a minimum 24% dry matter content.

“We are looking forward for a good season following good rains and capacity building exercises that have been offered to farmers during the off season that we believe has and will enable them to comply with the required standards,” he said.

In the previous year, Kenya recorded significant avocado exports to over 152 destinations, with volumes increasing from 391,507 tons in 2022 to 468,438 tons in 2023.

Notable export destinations included the Netherlands, United Kingdom, France, UAE, and Germany, with emerging markets in China, India, and Kazakhstan.

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