Synergies & opportunities for Dutch agribusinesses investing in East Africa: The Ketchup Project
The Ketchup Project (KP) is a SNV-Supported innovation case that works together with the Kwakyai Rural Savings and Credit Cooperative SACCO, in Makueni County, Kenya, to grow nutritious tomatoes and sun-dry them on site. These tomatoes are exported to The Netherlands, and made into delicious, low-sugar ketchup for the Dutch market (Figure 1). The project not only reduces post-harvest losses, but it provided 35 farmers with the Global GAP Certification. The certification allows Kenyan tomatoes to enter European markets, and has taught farmers to grow tomatoes (and other crops) through good agricultural practices.
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By training local farmers the projects contributes to Sustainable Development Goal 8, as inclusive and productive employment is promoted. Moreover, Dutch consumers can enjoy the taste of the Kenyan sun, contribute to waste reduction whilst stimulating the local economy.
Kwakyai Farmers and The Ketchup Project: A Perfect Match
Back in 2014, Anne Janssens and other Dutch entrepreneurs worked with tomato farmers in Laikipia County, Kenya to reduce post-harvest losses. An average of 40% of Kenyan tomatoes are left unsold and thus thrown away. This represents a huge loss of nutritious produce and farmer income.
“One of the main causes is that tomato farmers harvest at the same time. This overflows market capacity, and thus a lot of produce cannot be sold and gets thrown away.” – says Janssens one of the founders of The Ketchup Project.
By helping farmers grow tomatoes during off-season and preserving the produce by drying it, Janssens and her colleagues helped farmers reduce the wastage. Seeing the results, and having already a network of farmers in Kenya, the group sought to work with more farmers. Through SNV Kenya and its Kenya Horticulture Market-led Programme (HortIMPACT), Janssens and her group got in touch with the Kwakyai SACCO.
“The cooperative was very enthusiastic to work with us, as they were exposed to inefficient local markets. They were exactly what we were looking for.” Explains Janssens.
Working together with the farmers, Janssens and her colleagues produced and sold over 5,000 bottles of ketchup made with Kwakyai tomatoes, and funded by a crowd funding campaign. This was just the start, together with SNV, the SACCO obtained a solar dryer made by the Dutch company Kascade, and got 35 Kwakyai farmers Global GAP Certified. This is the begin of what would be known as The Ketchup Project.
One of the main areas of opportunities for Dutch agri-companies in East Africa is the introduction of agri-knowledge and better agricultural practices and technologies. Coupled with that, there exists a willingness to adopt this knowledge and technologies by Kenyan farmers.
“Kenyan agriculture remains very traditional in terms of practices and technologies,” mentions Janssens, “but that is not to say that Kenyan farmers are not willing to learn and adopt techniques and innovations that can benefit them.”
Since the start of the KP in 2015, 35 farmers have been certified with the Global GAP, and the Kwakyai SACCO built a processing centre that employs 15 people (10F/5M) next to the solar dryer, 100mts from the plots of land.
The SACCO is able to sort, cut, dry and package 150kg of fresh tomatoes in one day, ready for pick up.
Mutulu Amisi (farmer and coordinator of the cooperative) explains that the Kwakyai SACCO has taken the lead in making the processing centre as efficient as possible, and collaborating as closely as possible with the KP. For example, the farmers have focused their efforts on growing two tomato varieties preferred by Dutch consumers: Kilele and Star varieties. The SACCO also continues to look for ways to improve the drying efficiency of the Kascade solar dryer to increase the dried tomato output.
In terms of challenges, Janssens mentions that Dutch agribusinesses must recognize that long sustainable relationships with farmers are crucial. And that forming them takes time, effort and patience. She also points out to keep in mind how cultural differences might reveal some communication barriers and misunderstandings, and that working them out with the Kenyan farmers is key.
The introduction of innovative technologies and practices, must consider the traditional biodiversity of specific sites. In line with Sustainable Development Goal 12, the project aims to produce as sustainable as possible. The Kwakyai farmers’ plots of land enjoy a rich biodiversity of crops, and respecting it ensures the sustainability of the project.
Effects on Quality of Life and Food Security
Farmers involved with the Ketchup Project (KP) underwent training required to get the Global GAP Certification, and gained access to a more consistent Dutch market. This provided the 35 cultivators two significant benefits: increased productivity, and a more stable market and income.
The average plot size these farmers work with is 1/8th of an acre. Before becoming involved with the KP, they were able to grow 2.5 tons of tomatoes per season. After undertaking the Global GAP training, these same farmers can grow 5 tons of tomatoes in the same area and timeframe. In terms of market access and income, these farmers used to rely on local markets that could not ensure consistent payments for their produce. Payments used to vary between 25-60 KSH, when and if local buyers were able to purchase their produce. With the KP, farmers involved are guaranteed 35 KSH per kg, and a more stable Dutch market.
Since July 2017, approx. 20,000kgs of fresh tomatoes have gone through the SACCO’s processing facilities. 80% of those tomatoes have been dried by the cooperative using the solar dryer, and 20% were dried using a mechanical drier during days with rain and overcast. A total of 180,352 Kenyan Shillings (€ 1547) has gone to farmers (in the months of March to July 2018), and 20,826KSH (€179) has been saved. Besides the tomatoes dried, Kwakyai farmers also commercialize other crops with local markets, further increasing their sales. Overall, Mutulu affirms that the 35 farmers of the project enjoy better and more consistent income since the start of the project, and more importantly: a consistent market for their produce.
“At least 4 of the farmers in the cooperative are now able to get their children better education (…) and we can of course get better food for ourselves.” Said Mutulu with a smile.
The Ketchup Project provides a great example of some of the synergies, opportunities and challenges Dutch agribusinesses find when investing and working in East Africa. It also provides some insights on how food security can improve through private Dutch-Kenyan cooperation in agriculture. Does your company also invest in Kenya, or are you planning to do so? The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is here to support you where possible. Kenya is ready for innovators and developers, are you?
For more information and for contact with the Embassy send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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