Vegpro Ltd. is a major exporter of vegetables, fruits and flowers to the UK and Europe. Although 90% of the company’s produce comes from its own farms, in 2011, Vegpro partnered with small scale farmers through the Taita County Horticultural Outgrowers (TCHO), with the aim of facilitating production, value addition and marketing of sugar snaps, snow peas (Mange tout peas), French beans.
Through M-SAWA project, Vegpro aimed to increase quality and quantity of farm produce to meet high market demand for fresh vegetables by increasing the number of farmers involved in horticultural production and eventually increasing total production. The specific goals of the project include: reducing post-harvest losses by 20% through improving handling facilities and equipment, improving consistency in production, hence safeguarding the markets as well as increasing incomes for the smallholders, increasing production from 60 tons to 100 tons per month and promoting environmental improvement and increased farmer income through avocado tree planting. Activities supported by M-SAWA to achieve these goals include:
- Mobilization and recruitment of new farmers
- Training and capacity building towards safe handling and use of pesticides, including application of best agronomical practices, post harvest loss management, soil testing and maximum residue limit (MRL) testing
- Global certification of smallholder farmers and Vegpro in Fairtrade and Global Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to instill confidence in consumers sold as well as training members of the TCHO committee to upgrade their ability to effectively manage Fairtrade premiums to improve the services offered to group members (farmers)
- Farmer training on avocado planting and husbandry for environmental and financial benefits.
Through marketing campaigns, Vegpro, with the support of M-SAWA, began mobilization campaigns to recruit new farmers to existing groups as well form additional groups in new areas. To date, Vegpro has nearly doubled the number of farmers it engages with through TCHO from 800 to 1,500. All 1,500 farmers have received training on pesticide use, agronomy practices, soil testing and environmental conservation. These trainings have increased the skills among the farmers in production and farm management.
Vegpro now receives an average of 16 tons of quality produce weekly from 1,500 TCHO farmers compared to 10 tons produced previously by 800 farmers. This represents an increase of 6 tons weekly. As a result, farmer incomes have increased, with Vegpro’s payments to farmers increasing from Kshs 3.6 Million per month before M-SAWA to current payments of Kshs 5 million per month.
“Revenues for Vegpro have also increased as chemical residue detected has declined by 75% according to the MRL testing and good quality produced, allowing the company to increase salaries of staff working to support TCHO farmers by 20%,” said Vegpro representative Moses Karonjo. In addition, due to the Fairtrade and Global GAP certification acquired with the support of M-SAWA, exported produce fetches a premium of 15% above the market price.
Vegpro is a great example of how the M-SAWA project improves the incomes of farmers by increasing supply chain productivity, diversification and creating market linkages. The symbiotic relationships between farmers and agricultural enterprises like Vegpro are integral to creating successful agribusinesses that can compete on the international market. Vegpro is more successful and earns more revenue when it provides more training and support to its farmers and this increased revenue is passed onto farmers in the form of better prices and bigger contracts.