Organic Farmers Find Market Niche For Their Produce

NAIROBI

(Xinhua) —
When Jack Rware, a
middle aged father of three from Embu County in
central Kenya decided to venture into organic
farming, majority of his contemporaries thought
such a move was laden with pitfalls.

“Organic farming
was still an alien practice in my locality and
most farmers were used to conventional
cultivation of food crops using synthetic
fertilizers and pesticides. They warned me
against plunging into the unknown,” Rware told
Xinhua on Wednesday.

Rware has however defied
doomsday predictions from sceptical neighbours to become a
formidable voice of organic farming in the larger Embu County.

He invented a popular organic
Avocado tree called Jack2 which has gained popularity across
Kenya and overseas for producing fruits rich in mineral and
vitamin content.

Jack2 has outpaced other
conventional varieties in production of avocado fruits.

Rware revealed that strong
influence from his father inspired him to explore innovative
options that would improve quality of avocado trees in his
backyard.

“My father was given avocado
seeds by missionaries and this gave me a head start in
cultivation of this edible fruit. It took me thirty years to
invent Jack2 through crossbreeding local varieties with
other species,” says Rware on the sidelines of an
international conference on organic faming underway in
Nairobi.

He disclosed that demand for
Jack2 avocado has grown steadily for the last three years.”
Many Kenyans are buying the Jack2 seedlings which take three
to four years to mature and produce avocado. The fruit is very
popular owing to its nutritional value, “ says Rware.

“Go to any supermarket in
Nairobi and many people are asking for Jack2 avocado,” he
says. Rware has partnered with Kenya Organic Agriculture
Network (KOAN) to promote Jack2 avocado in the local market.

Besides Jack2, Rware also grows
organic coffee and macadamia nuts in his four acre ancestral
farm. An expanding market niche for organic products locally
and overseas has inspired small scale farmers to embrace
organic farming in greater numbers.

Michael Gitau, the Chairman of
Thika-based Central Farmers and Consumer Organization, says
that organically grown fruits and vegetables have gained
popularity among middle and high income households in Kenya.

Gitau heads an umbrella body of
28 organic farmers groups that represent 5,000 small scale
farmers in Thika County.

He says that these farmers are
growing fruits such as pineapples, pawpaw and oranges using
compost manure.

Gitau remarked that “farmers are
earning a lot of money from organically grown fruits which
they sell to affluent communities in Nairobi and small towns
within Thika County.”

Organised markets for organic
products have ensured that small scale farmers are shielded
from exploitative middlemen.

Triza Njoki,the marketing
Executive, Green Dreams says that “people now can buy
organically grown vegetables, fruits and a host of value added
products like honey, olive and coconut oil in shops.”

Green Dreams is promoting
establishment of organic shops in strategic geographical
points in Nairobi to ensure that organic products are sold in
a structured manner.

According to Njoki, products
sold at the shops are sourced from small scale farmers.

She adds that Green Dreams has
developed home delivery systems that make it possible for a
customer to order a basket of assorted fresh fruits and
vegetables.

The market for organic products
in Kenya has been on a growth trajectory and farmers are as
well keen on obtaining a slice of the pie in the global
organic market currently estimated at 50 million U.S. dollars.

The European Union is the
largest market for Kenyan organic products that include fruits
and vegetables, honey, herbs and spices and essential oils.

Samuel Ndungu, the National
Market Development Advisor, Kenya Organic Agriculture Network
(KOAN) notes that “demand for organic products by Kenyan
consumers has risen. Currently, every green grocer wants to
start an organic section in their shops.”

He cited organic shops in Karen
and Lavington suburbs of Nairobi that were opened recently.
Ndungu revealed that KOAN has partnered with municipalities to
develop organic farmers’ markets in many Kenyan towns.

The entire organic sector in
Kenya is worth 10.5 million dollars annually and is growing.
According to Ndungu, the domestic market comprises 10 percent
of that share.

The rise in demand for organic
products globally has created opportunities for Kenyan
smallholders.

An estimated 12,000 farmers in
Kenya are involved in certified organic production and export,
while a further 200,000 farmers are doing organic farming for
domestic market.

Ndungu stressed that organic
farming has multiple benefits to farmers in terms of food
security and revenue streams.

“Another advantage with organic
farming is that farmers are able to sell directly because
middlemen are phased out in the value chain. Farmers as well
interact with the market closely and understand latest
dynamics,” Ndungu told Xinhua.

The affluent urban middle
classes and populations above forty years form the bulk of
consumers of organic products.

According to Ndungu, “this is a
population segment that understands the health benefits of
eating organic foods and has disposable income to buy them”. 

Kenyan organic products have met
international standards thus boosting their competitiveness in
the overseas markets. These standards are mandatory and are
set by European Union, the United States and Japan.

Jack Juma, Program Manager, in
charge of Standards and Certification at KOAN, clarifies that
these standards are very stringent and have cost implication
to farmers.

“No export can be carried out
without certification which entails scrutinizing the entire
production chain from agronomy practices, processing,
transport and storage,” said Juma.

KOAN is assisting farmers with
training and capacity building to boost their understanding of
these standards.

.


Kenya to push
forward organic agriculture for both food security and
exports

NAIROBI
(Xinhua) —
The Kenyan government recognizes
organic farming as a viable option to boost food production
and foreign exchange earnings in the country, official said
here on Wednesday. 

Government officials say that
expansion of organic farming in the country’s hinterlands and
urban centers is key to food security and sustainable
development.

“Organic farming has been
recognized as an alternative method of improving crop
productivity. It should be integrated with conventional
farming to boost food production in the country,” Grace
Chirchir, the Deputy Director, Horticulture Division, Ministry
of Agriculture told Xinhua in Nairobi on Wednesday.

Chirchir noted that organic
farming is a cost effective and environmentally friendly
practice ideal for smallholder farmers.

“Organic farming practices
utilize natural compounds to improve soil condition, water
holding capacity, control of pests and diseases. It is very
appropriate for small scale farmers who lack financial
resources to purchase costly synthetic fertilizers and other
inputs,” Chirchir said.

Chirchir revealed that
currently, an estimated 133,000 hectares of land is under
certified organic farming while a further 100,000 is not
certified.

Approximately 250,000 small
scale farmers in Kenya are growing crops organically. The
Kenyan government has developed a draft policy on organic
farming to inject fresh impetus in efforts to scale up the
practice.

The government has partnered
with the private sector, non governmental organisatons,
farmers and consumer groups to accelerate the momentum towards
development of an organic farming policy.

.


Organic
farming a sustainable pathway to food security in Africa :
experts

NAIROBI
(Xinhua) —
African countries must increase
investments towards expansion of organic agriculture to shield
the continent from food insecurity while promoting ecosystems
management, representatives of organic movements meeting in
Nairobi on Tuesday said.

“Organic agriculture present
myriad opportunities to African farmers in terms of food
security and has a competitive edge in both local and
overseas markets,” Herve Bouagnimbek, Head of International
Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) in
Africa told journalists in Nairobi. He added that “organic
agriculture offer solution to climate change in the
continent”.

Bouagnimbek stressed the need
for governments in Africa to adopt policies that encourage
organic farming. “Local markets for organic products should be
developed to expand revenue streams among stallholders,” he
said.

The two-day international
conference on organic agriculture kicked off in Nairobi on
Tuesday under the title”Ecological Organic Agriculture: The
Alternative for Africa”.

The conference, organized by
IFOAM, the African Union, and the Kenyan Organic Agriculture
Network (KOAN), aims to provide a platform for the review of
new developments in organic agriculture in Africa.

Yemi Akinbamijo, the Head of
Agriculture and Food Security Division, African Union, noted
that organic farming can be applied in diverse agroecologies
and has the potential to lift the continent from the quagmire
of hunger and poverty.

“There is political will at
the highest level in the continent to mainstream organic
farming,” Akinbamijo told the participants. He pointed at
concerted efforts by the African Union to scale up efforts
in sensitizing political leaders on the value of organic
agriculture.

Akinbamijo disclosed that “there
is a growing organic movement in Africa that has promoted this
practice at national and regional levels.”

According to Akinbamijo, the
East and Southern African region has taken a leading role in
the uptake of organic farming practices. He challenged
governments to increase investments in organic agriculture.

David Osborn, the Coordinator,
Ecosystems Management Branch, UNEP, said that “ecologically
organic agriculture stresses a paradigm shift towards working
with nature. It is consistent with ecosystems approach.”

Osborn reiterated that “organic
agriculture can play a critical role in development of green
economy in Africa.” The practice ensures healthy ecosystems
provide a range of services including clean air, water and
soils.

Hans Herren, the World Food
Prize Laureate said that “we need to bring changes that make
agriculture regenerative, where benefits go directly to
farmers.”

Herren stressed that “organic
agriculture addresses hunger and poverty, health and nutrition
and not just quantity but quality,” He added, “organically
produced food has more minerals and vitamins.”

….

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