By Kelvin Majangah
This week on Marketplace Africa, CNN International investigates the growing avocado industry in Kenya. This “green revolution” has seen farmers abandoning their traditional crops in favour of harvesting the popular fruit, with the demand for avocados increasing in recent years due to its perceived health benefits.
Kenya’s fertile soil and temperate climate have made it ideal for growing avocados and the country has become the only African nation in the top ten largest avocado producers.
CNN meets Jackson Mwangi, a Kenyan smallholder avocado farmer, who talks about his decision to forgo traditional crops in favour of avocados, “From avocado I do get a lot of money, with the maize and beans, there was nothing. Last year, I had cut mango trees, they were all ready to be harvested but there was nobody to buy them. So, I decided to cut them down and plant avocado instead of mango tree.”
Mwangi was supported in his new venture by Kakuzi, a Kenyan-based farming company working with small farmers on agricultural cultivation. Chris Flowers, the managing director of Kakuzi PLC, tells the programme about his company’s support of small farmers, “We have approximately 700 hectares of irrigated avocados on our own estates, and we support about 2000 smallholder farmers.”
Kenya is proving ripe for avocado farming because along with its climate and soil it is in a unique position to export the fruit when other countries are unable to. Flowers explains, “Kenya currently falls in very much towards the back end of the South African season. And depending on where we develop avocados in the future, that window may get extended into the winter period, that extension of your market window so you’re supplying fruit into the Septembers and the Octobers into North Europe is quite important.”
Another key market opening up is China which recently signed a deal with Kenya to export avocados. Flowers speaks about how important this opportunity could be for Kenyan farmers, “I think there’s a long way to go, but the sheer size of China means that if avocados become part and parcel of the Chinese shopping basket, it is a great opportunity for Kenya.”
These opportunities are transforming farming in Kenya, and with support from companies like Kakuzi, small farmers are able to make big profits. Mwangi describes how avocado farming has helped him and how he is encouraging more farmers to follow his example, “From an avocado, I have earned a lot of money, whereby I have bought a car for myself. I have introduced so many farmers from my area and they have started planting avocados here and there.”