Accessing markets and building viable consumer bases are a major challenge for all business ventures and the Organic Agriculture Industry is no exception to such realities. It has been our experience that to have any worthwhile business relationship, it is pertinent that all value chain actors from farmers, traders, processors and retailers (not forgetting supporting actors such as certifiers, government and non-governmental actors, inputs suppliers among others) work collaboratively. Collaboration fosters trust and allows players to identify, explore and actualize business opportunities.
The Business Summit was able to outline some areas of interest and to present compelling arguments of why the Organic Agriculture Sector in Kenya is ripe for the picking.
With such a rich pool of stakeholders represented we hope that the event will ignite the spark of collaboration among Organic Agriculture Sector players.
From the Summit Three Thematic areas of interest were identified for collaborative pursuit;
- Organic Vegetables and Fruits for Local Market
- Organic Fruit for Export
- Organic Herbs and Spices
The Business Summit was the just a 1st Step in many to, discussions in the various thematic groups have already commenced with many actors already moving forward in identifying opportunities.
In order to coordinate these collaborations WhatsApp groups have been set up based on the Thematic Groups(TG).
The groups are being coordinated as follows;
|1||Organic Vegetables and Fruits for Local Market||Martin Njoroge|
|2||Organic Fruit for Export||Clement Adongo
|3||Organic Herbs and Spices||Emma Njoki|
One has to be an interested party to participate in any of the above group and must offer some value to the discussions being held. The main purpose of the groups is to explore business opportunities that must Benefit Farmers in Murang’a County.
Contact Martin Njoroge – 0725 295 437 for more information.
If you missed the summit
DATE: 3RD DECEMBER 2020
TIME: 8:30 AM- 1.00PM
EVENT TYPE: Invite Only
ORGANIZERS : KOAN , KALRO , FIBL, AFRICROPS LTD, OACK
The Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) together with its partners will be hosting a first of kind organic industry business event on Thursday, 3rd December 2020 (9.00am) via Zoom platform . The Organic industry is the fastest growing subsector in agriculture globally, trading billions of dollars’ worth of products annually. This global trend is gaining pace in Kenya with people seeking healthy food amidst the Covid19 pandemic and food safety lapses in local food supply come to light. A burgeoning middleclass is fast becoming picky with food and export markets are becoming increasingly critical on sustainability, carbon emissions and pesticide residues.
The Kenya Organic Agriculture Network has been an industry leader making meaningful business linkages within the organic space. KOAN has assisted notable companies with strategic and much needed advisory and farmer linkage services that have led to millions of dollars’ worth of trade both locally and for export to date. In a bid to rapidly expand the organic space, KOAN has partnered up with the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), the Research Institute for Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Africrops Limited, the Organic Agriculture Centre of Kenya (OACK) among other organizations to foster organic market development by focusing on both the domestic and export market.
The Organic Business Summit is an invite only event to present an organic sector survey implemented in Kenya during 2020, and to move ahead in jointly exploring organic business opportunities for the local and export market particularly focusing on organic products originating from Murang’a County. The County has some of the most pristine and prime land with the highest number of organic farmers in Kenya supplying fresh fruits and vegetables. The county has great potential for both local and export markets.
Latest date to sign up for the event is 27th November 2020.
Date: 7th October 2020 Time: 9.30 am Location: Virtual (Zoom) Meeting ID: Passcode:
About the Event
KOAN, Route To Food Initiative (RTFI), Biodiversity Biosafety Association (BIBA) and Resource Oriented Development Initiative (RODI) have petitioned parliament to withdraw toxic pesticides that have been withdrawn in Europe due to their negative impacts on human health, environment and toxicity to pollinators.
As a follow up to a study done in 2019 by RTFI that informed the petition, this year, KOAN undertook a pesticide monitoring survey in Murang’a and Kirinyaga counties to check whether the identified pesticides are available and in use in the two Counties. We also did pesticides residue testing on tomatoes and kales. The findings reveal concerning use of pesticides including the ones that have been withdrawn in Europe and also high toxicity levels of pesticide residues in tomatoes and kale.
The study findings will be presented Wednesday, 7th October via zoom from 9.30 AM, where the report will be launched.
Please Join the Zoom Meeting using the details below
We also plan for more sensitization by distribution of the report; County and National Governments engagements; CSOs and Consumer engagements among others so that we can all work together to ensure that the toxic pesticides are withdrawn in Kenya; that safer alternatives are promoted and used by our farmers; that the relevant authorities do regular pesticide residue monitoring to assure Kenyans of safe food.
“Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’, often ascribed to Hippocrates (400 BC)”
- WhitePaper on Pesticides Use in Kirinyaga and Murang’a Counties (9mb file)
- Policy Brief – Pesticides Study – Policy Brief
- Summary of Pesticides Petition – Summary – Kenya Pesticides Petition
- Access SaferInputs.com Database – www.saferinputs.com
This article appeared in AFRONET ISSUE NO 3 JANUARY TO JUNE 2020
Organic agriculture has the potential to generate significant incomes for households, thus potentially uplifting smallholder-farming households from poverty cycles and food/nutrition insecurity. Through various interventions, the number or farmer and land under organic cultivation has been constantly growing in Kenya. With land under organic cultivation increasing from 4,894 hectares in 2016  to 172, 225 hectares under organic in 2019, the writing on the wall is clear, organic is the future of sustainable farming.
The commercial appeal of organic farming has led to a rising number of entrepreneurs eager to rake in the money, caution should be exercised, organic farming should not be viewed as a purely commercial interest, in fact most successful organic farmers started off as subsistence farmers growing only for their own consumption. Through initial struggles to get their processes and practices right, they eventually saw the business opportunity in supplying others with such products. They were able to persevere through the initial disappointments and change in mind-set required to transition into organic. They were able to understand their own farms and create harmonious balance. Any seasoned organic farmer will tell you, no two farms are alike; each has its own set of challenges and character, much like human beings.
For the few out of the many who successfully convert to organic production systems, commercialization of their agribusiness endeavors, pose considerable challenges. Without formal organic market access, most farmers are resigned to selling their produce to undifferentiated conventional markets, where premiums for organic produce are lost. Many organic farmer actually regress back to conventional farming habits due to lack of market access.
This is a paradox, many retailers would like to have organic produce as part of their grocery portfolio, but find it hard to source. The needs is there but there is a mismatch in capacity to fulfill those needs. On closer observation of the problem, the following is clear.
- Retailers are looking for organic produce to sell, the produce has to be of specific quality standards, and not just anything will go. The visual appeal has to be of equal or greater quality than conventional produce. They will be competing for the consumers’ attention and nobody wants to pay a premium for poor quality products. Yes, consumers can be fickle, even organic consumers.
- Consistent supply capacity has to be proven before a retailer takes the risk of opening up a new line of organic products. For retailers, especially big supermarkets, a new product line is a big investment. It involves the physical set up, the capacity building of staff ( all staff need to be sensitized on what is organic, nothing puts off a consumer faster than retail staff who don’t know what they are talking about), the branding and marketing. Going organic is as much a strategic choice for retailers as is the physical positioning of beverages and snack items. They are always looking for crowd pullers and with the increasing focus on healthy foods and lifestyles, organic food is high on the consumer and health totem pole. Therefore, a retailer requires assurances that the line of business is sustainable, in the retail business empty shelves drive away customers.
- Farmers may not necessarily have the requisite skills sets to meet retailers’ demands. Quantities of particular produce maybe available during certain seasons and then they disappear when the product is out of season. Same with quality, it is easy to have high quality produce in the beginning of the season, but maintaining such standards consistently may prove too much for unseasoned farmers.
Therefore, a stalemate of sorts persists, the farmers have the produce in plenty, but the retailers cannot take it and will not take it. Nobody gains anything and the masses are denied access to safe food.
Well, the Kenya Organic Agriculture Network (KOAN) has been working on the problem for a number of years. Attempting to bridge this market-supply gap. Through trial and error several things have been established but not limited to,
1) It is not enough to introduce farmers to retailers and vice versa, there has to be some added capacity for the farmers to be able to reach the quality standards of the retailers. Here issues of marketing and branding emerge. Gone are the days when just saying something is organic will sell. Consumers are looking for branded merchandise, something they can trace back to the source.
2) Retailers need assurance of regular and consistent supply. Farmers cannot operate as individuals; marketing collectives need to be established, farmers need to take control of the process.
3) It is not enough to have a marketing collective; a planting calendar needs to be established. To ensure consistency and reduce internal competition a system for growing what and when needs to be developed. This system needs to take into consideration what the market wants and in what volumes.
4) The prevailing agroecological conditions need to be observed, what can be grown with least effort should be grown, farmers need to avoid problem crops (pests and diseases, access to quality seed, etc.). Farming is an enterprise, if the costs of growing particular crops outweigh the market prices and leave little margins for profit, then they cease to be viable and should be abandoned until prevailing conditions change.
All viable lessons. KOAN’s latest attempt at streamlining the organic supply chain in Kenya currently involves farmers from Machakos and Murang’a counties. Murang’a supplies most of the vegetables while Machakos supplies the fruits creating a healthy balance. The project supported by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) started in 2018 with 90 farmers, 45 from each county with 3 retailers interested. This number has since grown to 200 farmers and 6 retailers.
With the experience gained from previous attempts, KOAN first selected entrepreneurial and market ready farmers. The farmers were taken through the usual capacity building sessions with particular emphasis on managing expectations as well as conveying the importance of professional conduct in approaching business. Retailers were also involved in order to eliminate any casualness, the gravity of the whole system needed to be appreciated. This was not business as usual and everybody on board got the message. Initial meetings were organized between farmers and retailers. This was mainly to get the farmers to grow exactly what the market required. KOAN engaged field coordinators to assist the farmers in aggregating their products. The coordinators served as the nodes between farmers and retailers. The farmer marketing collectives would eventually absorb them.
Proof of the pudding is in the eating. Sales began in the month of November 2020. By December the volumes had considerably increased and February 2020 saw the highest volumes traded since. By this time two farmer cooperatives had been formally registered, i.e. the Murang’a Organic Growers Cooperatives Society and Machakos Organic Cooperative Society. With increase in confidence, retailers also started demanding for more, the current volumes were inadequate. This warranted the increase in farmer supply base. More farmers recruited into the cooperative and supply volumes ramped up. Projected volume for supply had the situation remained constant would have been northwards of 10 tonnes monthly since the volumes had been growing by 30%monthly.
As with any worthwhile endeavour, challenges will be encountered and for this particular system, the COVID 19 pandemic struck hard. With limited movements and reduced consumption, most households are keeping a firm grip on their expenditures. Hotels and restaurants closed their doors to clients, retailers reported significant dip in consumer spending. These were by far the biggest buyers and significantly reduced their demand. The situation might seem bleak but it has also revealed opportunities.
- Nairobi cannot be the only market for organic produce, with increased sensitization more viable markets can be cultivated closer to home. This will also lead to increased profits for the farmers with transport cost reduced substantially.
- Third party traders and retailers need not be the only outlets; the cooperatives can develop their outlets and market their products as organic. This is a reality in other sectors, Fresha Milk, a popular brand in Kenya is owned by Murang’a Dairy Cooperative Society.
- Post harvest preparation and Value addition needs to be part of the system. Today there might not be a market, but the situation might change overnight.
The story is not at an end yet, with the support of KOAN, the cooperatives are exploring the above options. Although demand from Nairobi still exists, the COVID19 pandemic revealed how fragile the system is. A pivot is needed, to where and what? Only time will tell. Watch this space for updates.
 FIBl and IFOAM, The World of Organic Agriculture, The World of Organic Agriculture, 2016 <https://doi.org/10.4324/9781849775991>.
 FiBL and IFOAM, The World of Organic Agriculture, ed. by Helga Willer and Julia Lernoud, The World of Organic Agriculture Statistic and Emerging Trends 2019, 2019 <https://doi.org/10.4324/9781849775991>.
The following article appeared in AFRONET ISSUE NO 3 JANUARY TO JUNE 2020
The National Co-ordinator
Kenya Organic Agriculture Network
CPA Centre Block A,
Along Thika Road
Our support number is available from Monday to Friday
Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 5pm
0728 772 805
0731 772 805
- Monday-Friday: 8am to 5pm
- Weekends: Closed
- Public Holidays: Closed