When farmers move beyond subsistence agriculture to produce surpluses, local economies experience an infusion of capital that, in turn, leads to the development of small enterprises, the formation of new markets and the injection into cash-starved economies. However, there are often major obstacles to sustaining such growth, including the seasonal nature of agriculture; limited access to finance to purchase quality-farming inputs; limited access to knowledge on good agricultural practices and appropriate technologies; and limited assured market access.
To address these issues, Frigoken Limited, a project company of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, endeavours to forge a better future for Kenya’s rural small-scale farmers. Rather than cultivating on company owned or contracted large-scale farms, Frigoken engages directly with small-scale farmers to produce various agricultural produce, including green beans. Frigoken provides farmers with a range of services including price guarantees; assured market; provision of highest certified quality inputs; agricultural extension services at no cost to the farmer, amongst others.
By processing throughout the year (rather than only when there is demand during European winters as is the case in fresh exports), Frigoken provides a steady income to farmers, most of whom have plots less than 2 acres of which around 200 square metres is used to cultivate produce.
Today, Frigoken is the largest exporter of processed green beans from Kenya, supplying niche products to leading European supermarket chains. The company currently provides direct employment to over 3,000 people, most of whom are women, and supports up to 100,000 small-scale farmers in rural areas of Kenya.
Frigoken has multiple international certifications and has received numerous awards for its inclusive business model and responsible business practices. Recognising the importance of its staff to the business, Frigoken implements a successful workplace wellness programme and provides a crèche facility for employees’ children. The company also undertakes multiple social and environmental projects within the communities it operates. To date, for instance, Frigoken has planted over 3.5million trees through its agro-forestry.