Africa | Smallholder farmers

Financial security through mangoes

10 June 2019 15:45

Fresh fruit doesn't stay fresh for long. In Kenya, for example, 80 percent of the mangoes harvested rot before they can be sold. Alex Muli's company Goshen Farm Exporters Ltd. came up with a solution that increased the income of largely poor smallholder mango farmers. 'Dried fruit has proven to sell extremely well, both locally and internationally.'

Mango smallholder farmers in field in Kenya

Alex Muli started out as a small mango farmer with big ambitions. “I wanted to sell more mangoes, and I wanted to sell them abroad. But my harvest was too small to have a serious chance at market. In order to supply larger volumes, I had to cooperate with other farmers.” To do that, he founded the company Goshen Farm Exporters Ltd. in 2010. By late 2017, Goshen worked together with 420 independent smallholder farmers, and by the end of the next year another 370 producers had joined them. And the growth shows no signs of stopping.

Providing security

Muli: “The farmers I work with come from different parts of the country. From West-, Central- and Southeast Kenya. The largest producers have seven hectares of land at most, and some only have a quarter hectare. They grow mangoes, pineapples, and avocados. I receive the products, package them, and bring them to market.” Why do the smallholder farmers like to work with Goshen? “We buy their products at regular intervals, and then bring them to market in Kenya or export them abroad. That gives them financial security, which improves their quality of life.” Muli knows how desperately they need it. Around 75 percent of the Kenyan population works in the agricultural sector, and the country’s rural agricultural areas are most affected by poverty.

Drying mangoes

“Until recently, we only brought fresh mangoes to market, but most of them would rot before we could sell them. That’s a terrible waste. Our solution was to dry the mangoes.” Goshen found a good export market for the dried fruit, which isn’t limited to the season. The result: less food wastage, greater demand for mangoes, and more sales for smallholder farmers. That gave the farmers a higher income and improved living conditions.

Goshen began drying fruit in 2018, and plans on focusing more the activity in the future. “We’ll soon begin processing, packaging and exporting pineapples in addition to mangoes”, Muli says. “And we plan on adding oranges in the long term as well. ‘Dried fruit has proven to sell extremely well internationally.” Eventually, he aims to earn 70 percent of Goshen’s revenue from dried fruit, and he’d like to expand his export market. “Hopefully, our products will be available in the Netherlands too some day soon!”

Smallholder mango farmers

How Rabo Foundation adds value

Rabo Foundation provides Goshen with working capital, which guarantees that the company can pay producers for their crops quickly and regularly. The investment by Rabo Foundation allowed Goshen to begin drying mangoes, thereby reducing the percentage of mangoes that go to waste. Drying fruit not only earns the fruit farmers extra income; it is also expected to create new jobs in the future, because Goshen will need more people to dry the fruit. Rabo Foundation also uses its network to help Goshen find new buyers for the dried fruit, and there are already interested parties in the Dutch market.