French beans are grown by Kenyan smallholder farmers across 16 counties. It is estimated that 80% of the final harvest makes it to plates across the European Union. Taita Taveta county has emerged as one of the biggest producers of French beans for export. Most of this production is currently being done under contract farming agreements, where exporters work with smallholder farmers directly.
Josephine Simiyu, the Deputy Director of the Horticulture Crops Directorate (HCD) says that “Institutional arrangements, and working with farmer groups is key in getting good quality French beans at good quantities.”
She also added that “there is a need to have aggregators who are willing to invest in tools that can improve traceability and quality control so as to ensure that exported produce actually makes it to the marketplace”.
Research has shown that working with farmers’ groups lowers barriers to entry and encourages peer-to-peer learning among farmers and also gives them a more robust platform for collective bargaining. Further, contract farming arrangements are creating privately sector-led extension services, which is easing the burden on the government.
In Taita Taveta county, Mercy Mwikali, who is farming French beans through contract farming, expresses satisfaction with the arrangement. Mercy indicated that through the aggregator, farmers have access to seed, pesticides, and other inputs as well as more organized market access as farmers deliver to the exporters’ packhouse at a centralized location.
For every kilo of seed she plants, she can expect to harvest 300-400 kilograms of French beans. This is only possible through the sharing of knowledge and expertise in her farmers’ group as well as interventions by the aggregators who are licensed and regulated by the HCD.
“Strong regulation is key. At HCD we are working with local and international stakeholders to localize Global Standards as well as create a framework that protects the interest of the farmers. You see 80% of all production in Kenya is done by smallholder farmers, so they are our first priority.”
Josephine Simiyu, the Deputy Director of the Horticulture Crops Directorate (HCD) was speaking on the Mazao Talks Podcast.
By Nepurko Keiwua.