MEDA-supported project improves lives of Kenyan farmers
Omar Mwalivunzi grows coconuts on his 15-acre (six hectare) farm, which is surrounded by forest in a rural area 35 km (21.7 miles) south of Mombasa, a coastal city of Kenya along the Indian Ocean.
He has 10 children, two of whom are still dependent on him. Omar is one of 3,000 coconut farmers who MEDA and its partner Kentaste are helping maximize what they earn from their harvests. The effort is part of MEDA’s M-SAWA (Maendeleo Sawa — Swahili for equal prosperity through private sector development) project.
Kentaste is a lead firm. MEDA provides financial incentives to Kentaste so this processor will provide technical assistance and support to its farmer suppliers.
Omar and other farmers are small enterprises in Kentaste’s supply chain. They receive training in organic certification and good agricultural practices including soil and
water conservation and pest management. These efforts result in Kentaste getting a better quality product. That allows Kentaste to expand, and the farmers to enjoy improved incomes.
Farmers that Kentaste contracts with are paid more than the Kenyan minimum wage, with annual increases at or above the rate of inflation.
“If you help change the situation for farmers, they change themselves, and you transform the community,” said Nathan Gachugil, Kentaste’s chief operating officer.
Kentaste produces natural coconut milk, cream and oil used in sauces, drinks, curries and desserts. It also sells desiccated (dehydrated) coconut, and oil used as a skin moisturizer and hair conditioner.
Omar Mwalivunzi has asthma. His contract with Kentaste means that he has access to financial advances if needed to obtain medication.
Supplying coconuts to Kentaste has more than doubled his income from four to five shillings (four to five cents US) per coconut to 12 shillings (12 cents US) per coconut.
In a single harvest, Omar can expect up to 7,000 nuts from his 150 trees. Nuts grow relatively quickly, and harvest takes place approximately every three months.
He used to get paid in cash, which had risks associated with it, and payment was often delayed by up to a month. Now, he is paid via a message to his mobile phone within a week.
There are additional environmental benefits from the MEDA partnership. The M-SAWA project has encouraged Kentaste and another lead firm to find value from the waste they produce.
Coconut husks and shells are re-used to make briquettes and chili waste converted into compost, respectively.
To read more about MEDA’s work in Kenya, visit www.meda. org/msawa