Additionally, the war between Russia and Ukraine has hampered the supply of fertilizer. This has also prompted countries to impose controls on food exports. Volatile energy prices have also created problems for farmers around the world.
In this turbulent geopolitical context, some agribusinesses in Kenya are mitigating farmers’ risks while maintaining food production. One of the largest exporters of green beans to Europe, Frigoken, for example, has for decades entered into contracts with each of the tens of thousands of smallholders who grow these crops.
Well before harvest, the company agrees on a predefined price with each farmer for their beans, ensuring them a reliable market. Frigoken helps farmers access inputs such as fertilizer on a credit basis. It also exposes producers to technical knowledge through training programs provided by extension workers. Thus, farmers and the company increase their yields and income.
“I wish my parents farmed this way”
In his lush plot in Muranga County, surrounded by banana trees and eucalyptus trees, Peter Joroge shares his success growing beans with Frigoken over the past decade: “In the beginning,” he says, “I was getting 80 to 100 kg per crop. unit and per year. But it gradually increased to 200 kg per unit. I wish my parents had farmed like I do,” he adds, “because I would have been in school longer. »
In addition to helping them grow cash crops, Frigoken also helps farmers produce commodities such as corn for their own consumption. This strengthens the food security of smallholder households as well as their long-term viability as food producers.
At the Frigoken processing plant in Nairobi, 85 percent of the workforce is women. Staff receive a decent salary, health care and pension plans. There is even a nursery. Contrary to popular belief that agri-food companies exploit their workers to maximize their profits, Frigoken supports them and assumes their risks while offering them a commercial return.
But beyond the consequences of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, there is another factor causing hunger in Kenya: climate change. According to data shared by the Kenya Meteorological Service, average annual temperatures in Kitui County have increased by 1.9°C over the past 40 years. This is more than double the global average. Combine this heat with a prolonged lack of precipitation, and it’s no wonder crops are struggling to grow.