Strengthening the horticulture sector in Kenya
Currently the HortIMPACT project implements 7 business cases. In these business cases, companies have to come up with at least 50% of the necessary funding, while SNV derisks the investment by providing the remainder of the budget. All the business cases are led by companies that can play an important role in supporting small and medium size commercial farmers to develop their business. The pivotal role of companies is key to make sure that investments that benefit farmers will be sustainable in the long run.
Each business case that HortIMPACT supports needs to address one or more of three themes that are central within the project: inclusive business, food loss and food safety.
In HortIMPACT's first business case that focused on including smallholder producers more than ten processing companies were involved. At 12 training sites across Kenya where farmers were trained in the production of tomatoes in greenhouses with the use of improved inputs such as hybrid seeds, integrated pest management, and fertiliser application. This business case reached smallholder and medium sized 4,200 farmers, 75% of them were able to adopt improved agricultural technologies on their farms in the next planting seasons. The participating companies reported that sales increased up to 20%.
Reducing food losses is the second theme that HortIMPACT focuses on. Kenya produces some of the tastiest mangos in the world, but many farmers lose more than half of their harvest because they have limited access to markets. In one of HortIMPACT's business cases, the project together with a local company promotes drying the unsold mangos into healthy snacks that are sold both locally and for export. A projected 600 farmers will benefit from this new market, giving their income a significant boost.
The third theme that HortIMPACT focuses on is improving food safety. Currently, farmers in Kenya are using a lot of poisonous pesticides to protect their crops against pests and diseases. As a result, if consumers do not properly wash vegetables they can ingest toxins. The high use of pesticides is unnecessary because with the right skills far less is required. That is why HortIMPACT works with the Agrochemicals Association of Kenya to promote market based spray services. Professional teams are active in six counties and are able to provide accessible and effective spraying services to small farmers, which reduces their costs of acquiring pesticides. They use the latest biological and integrated pest management methods, which also reduces the environmental footprint of crop protection. The professional spray teams are expected to reach at least 9,000 farmers with their services by the end of this year.
In another business case, HortIMPACT promotes the use of net-house technology to stimulate improved food safety in the production of green leafy vegetables. When produced in an open field, these kinds of vegetables are often sprayed directly on the leaf that people eat. By growing them in a closed environment the birds and insects that spread pests and diseases are no longer able to reach the vegetables. At the same time, using nets instead of plastic allows for air and rain water to reach the green leafy vegetables through the holes in the net-house while the temperature remains at the same level as in the open field.
Besides the support that HortIMPACT is able to provide to the business cases, the project also manages an innovation fund. From this innovation fund, HortIMPACT supports companies that would like to test innovative technologies and business models in the Kenyan horticulture sector that could potentially have a significantly positive impact on small and medium size commercial farmers. An example of such a project that is supported from the innovation fund is The Ketchup Project. This is the initiative of a few Dutch entrepreneurs to reduce the losses of tomatoes, which in the main harvesting season can be more than 40%. The Ketchup Project has started to source tomatoes from Kenya and process them into ketchup that is sold in the Netherlands. In 2016, 2,200 ketchup bottles were produced by the project. in 2017, the production will be scaled up to 60,000 bottles. As production increases and farmers have access to a growing market for their tomatoes, this innovation fund project evolves into a self-sustaining mature business case.
With increasing interests from companies to participate in HortIMPACT, there is a growing pipeline of new exciting business cases and innovation fund projects. At the same time, HortIMPACT is looking to scale up several successful business cases to strengthen their impact on the development of the Kenyan horticulture sector. To achieve this goal, SNV will work closely with retailers to access markets and financial institutions to make credit avaialable to farmers that will enable them to invest in the development of their farms. To increase the uptake of promoted technologies HortIMPACT also works with knowledge institutes such as Wageningen University and Egerton University to acquire a sound knowledge base to make sure that the appropriate innovations are applied in the right contexts.
With its business case and innovation project approach, HortIMPACT is well on its way to improve the lives of more than 75,000 farmers in Kenya.