Helping Local Farmers Work, Export Goods and Support their Families During the COVID-19 Pandemic
This post is written by Sonia Gloss, USAID and Boniface Musembi, KCDMS. USAID’s Feed the Future Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems Activity (KCDMS) is managed by RTI International. The program is implemented through strengthening our local partners who are private sector companies, farmer groups, county governments, local contracting organizations and media companies. KCDMS’ work is ongoing and continues to operate during the pandemic to support Kenya’s food supply chain.
Agriculture, the backbone of the Kenyan economy, is one of the hardest hit sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite challenging export and operating restrictions related to COVID-19 control measures, Mula Export Limited and USAID's Feed the Future KCDMS project are working together to link 2,500 smallholder avocado farmers in Western Kenya to sustainable markets for their produce.
Mula Export, a grower and global agricultural exporter of fresh produce, is a private sector firm that received a co-investment grant from USAID's KCDMS project to expand its avocado supply chain into more distant production areas in Western Kenya in order to meet the international demand for quality avocados. The investment has allowed Mula to contract with farmers in Migori who expand Mula’s avocado production and adopt good agricultural practices to produce quality avocados that meet international standards.
COVID-19 control measures significantly impacted Mula’s production and export operations. These measures, which included a reduction in freight flights and increased cost for cargo space, a ban on movement into and out of Nairobi County, stay-at-home orders, closure of public markets and a curfew that shortened Mula’s packing plant operation hours.
In order to continue operations, Mula Export adapted by changing their shipment from air cargo to sea transport to reduce costs. In addition, with the support of KCDMS, the company has put in place several other measures to mitigate COVID challenges. These include increasing the size of the daytime workforce in the packhouse, sourcing new supplies of packaging materials from South Africa and supporting farmers by collecting produce from the farm gate to limit the dangers of congregation in large groups. Mula Export is also linking their contracted farmers to other exporters like Kandia Fresh Produce Suppliers and Go Foods to sell their surplus produce to limit waste and increase farmers' income.
“Mula Export has provided me with a reliable avocado market in the export market, which fetches better prices of KES 70/kilogram when other farmers are struggling to sell at KES 30/kilogram in the local market during this COVID 19 period. Through this, I am able to comfortably meet my financial obligations and take care of my family,” says Gideon Macharia, an avocado farmer from central Kenya.
Mula is continuing to export large orders of avocados; approximately 264 metric tons have been aggregated from smallholder contract farmers since the season began. The estimated value of these exports is over KES 47 million ($470,000). Despite COVID-19, Mula Export continues to put money into smallholder farmer pockets.