Creating sustainable markets and reducing post-harvest losses for smallholder fruit farmers. Voices of Rose Amiri and Charles Muthemba, smallholder banana farmers in Taita Taveta County
Meet Mama Rose Dawa Amiri, a smallholder banana farmer in Madarasani village, Mboghoni, and Charles Muthemba of Mkameni village, Bomeni, Taita Taveta county. Over the years, they’ve been cultivating bananas (mostly the dwarf cavendish variety) and selling through aggregators who buy per crate from KES300-500/crate depending on size of bananas, and in turn sell to markets in Mombasa at KES.11-13/Kg. Return on effort was quite low and income barely supplemented their family’s subsistence.
Banana is one of the most important food and cash crops in Kenya and the most popular fruit in Kenya. However, the banana supply chain in the country is complex and inefficient, with an estimated 95% of the crop sold as grade 2 and handled by street vendors and retailers in residential areas. Today, Taita Taveta county is the second largest banana producer in Kenya, with a productivity rate of 9.7% and over 6,000 banana farmers. In 2020, Taita Taveta produced 62,580 tonnes of bananas.
Improved access to market is a critical game changer for smallholder producers. In 2018, Mama Rose, Muthemba and 400 other farmers formed the Taita Taveta Banana Farmers Cooperative Society (TATABA), to strengthen their market access and negotiation for better prices and to create a buffer between the farmers and traders so as to eliminate exploitation through unfair pricing. Each week, the farmer members produce 10,000Kgs of fresh (green) bananas that is bought by the traders via the cooperative at KES11/Kg, a marked improvement in margins from buying per crate and the traders determining the prices. The traders pay the cooperative, who in turn pay the farmers through individual bank accounts. To further improve on farmer returns, the cooperative, through partnerships with County Government and other actors, has introduced to the members the Grand 9 variety, which is larger, grows faster and fetches better prices per kilo.
From June 2021, Miyonga Fresh Greens Ltd, a local fruit processing company has set up a mobile fruit dryer at El doro in Taveta, with an initial capacity to process and dry 2400Kg of fresh fruit per day. Miyonga has partnered with TATABA to buy fresh bananas from local farmers at KES14/Kg. Charles Muthemba has recently supplied 1,945Kg of green bananas and earned KES27,230, and if he sold through the intermediary traders, he would have received less than KES16,000 for the same quantity. By setting up processing closer to the farmers, Miyonga is not only bringing market closer, but is also able to pay better prices, remove transactional bottlenecks, reduce post-harvest losses and increase margins, which in turn translate to improved livelihoods. This initiative is poised for a major take-off as Miyonga’s partnership with Kenya Catalytic Jobs Fund and others grow, to improve on the company’s agro-processing and fruit export capacity.