Francis Kimeu, father of four, has been a mango farmer for 14 years in Kingeleti village, Makueni County. This county in the former Eastern Province of Kenya is amongst the country’s leading regions in mango production. But like Francis, many small-scale mango farmers had a hard time making ends meet.
According to Francis, who is now 66 years old, farmers in his region have had to endure low prices for their mango produce in spite of their good performance. Due to intermediaries who purchase at low unit prices – 3 KES or as little as 1 KES (US$ 0.01-0.03) – the farmers are left with nothing.
“There has been no notable improvement in the price they offer farmers. They were also crafty in that they used to buy small quantities and buy at a lower price every time then they came back for the rest. There have also been heavy post-harvest losses because of the lack of market. Even cows used to eat mangoes to their fill and still the mangoes went to waste,” Francis says.
The story of Diana Muema is no different from that of Francis. Together with her husband, they have been mango farmers since the year 2000. But in these 20 years, they have had nothing to show for their hard work.
In 2019, Premier Food Industries Ltd. (PFIL), a project company of Industrial Promotion Services (IPS) – with the support and collaboration of the EU-funded AgriFi and Slovak Aid – started a pilot project to contract mango farmers in two regions: Makueni and Kwale counties. The aim of the project is to link the farmers directly to PFIL to help maximise their returns.
By contracting the farmers directly, PFIL provides them a ready market for their produce. In addition, the project offers extension services to the farmers in these regions and trains them on sustainable farming practices to maintain high-quality produce. This is a model that has worked successfully for PFIL’s sister company, Frigoken, Kenya’s largest exporter of processed green beans, whose operations today support thousands of small-scale farmers in rural areas of Kenya.
“I have seen a big difference since I enrolled in this project with PFIL,” says Francis. “The training that PFIL has offered us has helped me and other farmers. They have trained us on proper pest and disease management, pruning, amongst other things. The booklets that they gave us have also been helpful. They have good information that a farmer if they follow, will get good results from his mango trees. The booklet has personally helped me maintain good tree hygiene which keeps away pests.”
In addition to the training and manuals, the farmers receive regular messages from PFIL extension officers on good agricultural practices. With the support of this project, Francis is now able to meet most of his family’s needs – something that had been an uphill task for years.
Diana and her husband now also rest easy knowing that they need not worry about the future of their family because the returns from their mangoes will sustain them. “With the availability of a ready market – which by far was our biggest challenge – regular training and follow-up by the PFIL staff, the ‘conditions’ for growing mangoes at the moment are conducive,” she says.
To date, PFIL is supporting over 500 mango farmers in Makueni, Kwale and Tana River counties. The purpose of the project is to create a sustainable farmer-focused value chain and plans to scale up the project will eventually benefit thousands more small-scale farmers.
This article was adapted from a story published on the IPS website.