They say when people come together they can conquer the world and there is power in numbers. Mr. Paul Muthami Tumuti a writer and a farmer who is the chairman of TEHU self-help group had a vision for the group and the entire Kenya. According to Mr. Muthami “Avocado is the canopy of life”, this is what we are going to show you in this article.
Mr. Muthami who is an alumni of Kimathi Institute which has now changed to Dedan Kimathi University of Technology studied building but decided to do farming as a part timer.
Every day is a learning day and life is an experience. Few farmers had Hass avocado trees in TETU and market was a challenge. Brokers and Cartels always come in sheep skin but inside they are leopards. They will tell farmers how the market has shifted and they should sell their produce to them since they are connected and have ready market.
In 2016, with just 22 members, TEHU (Tetu and Huhoini) Fruits and Vegetables self-help group was formed and registered with assistance of agricultural department. The main purpose of forming the group was most farmers had few mature trees and the only way of having a bargaining power was to be in a group. TEHU was registered from members of several sub-locations that are karaihu, Kigogoini, Gatumbiro, Kiriti, e.t.c.
In 2016, the group sold 52,000 pieces of hass avocado from various farmers to one of the biggest exporters in Kenya. Their anticipation was 10 Ksh per fruit but they only managed to sell at 5.19 Ksh per fruit. They were very demoralized and almost gave up. However, they knew there was hope because previously their fruits were being bought for less than Ksh 2-4.
In 2017 more members joined and they had 17 new members making a total of 35 members. According to the chairman, they were frustrated by the strict conditions given by the exporter and they decided to sell at the farm gate. This time they managed to get a supplier. They sold a total of 78,000 hass avocados fruits at 8.50 Ksh. This was more of a break through. The farmers were excited since they were paid promptly and at the farm gate.
In 2018, the group was becoming bigger, from 35 members to 110. This time the group expanded from Tetu and Huhoini to other areas such as Thegenge, Nyeri Municipality, Mweiga, and Giakanja.e.t.c. The dream was coming to a reality and now the target was an exporter. So the group management together with members called a meeting to deliberate on the terms to be given to the buyers of the fruits.
Terms to the buyer
- They should verify the quality and quantity of the fruits
- They should negotiate and agree on the best price.
- Exporter/interested party have to deposit a good sum of money in TEHU’s bank account as a down payment.
- Supervision both from the exporter and TEHU has to be present during harvesting.
In 2018 the group received more than 10 interested parties who wanted to buy the fruits from members. Each buyer was to come up with best price they can buy the fruits and also best terms. The management tasked by the group was meant to select the best of the parties,
The group members sold the fruits to one of the exporting companies at Ksh 12 per fruits gate price.
In 2019, Things were bigger and better, the members rose from 110 to 300 of which 150 members had mature fruits for sale. This time members came all the way from marwa, and Othaya. After doing the vetting of various interested parties, one exporter who won to buy the fruits bought 450,000 pieces of hass avocado at Ksh 16 and 200,000 Fuertes avocados at Ksh 6- Ksh 8. While the members were selling at Ksh 16, the non-members were selling theirs at Ksh 8. That is 100% difference; do you now believe there is power in numbers?
TEHU has created for the local young people who during harvesting are highly engaged. Its only in 2016 they had professional pickers but there after the group decided to engage the local young people.
Some conditions for Becoming a Member of the group.
TEHU doesn’t discriminate any farmer, whether you are a farmer with a single tree or a farmer like Mr. Kabue from Githakwa with 300 trees. So what do you need to become a member?
- Registration and membership fee of Ksh 1000
- Fruit should be grown organically, (no synthetic fertilizers). Most exporters want organic products. ( Use traps instead of chemicals to control pests)
- Members should undergo trainings
- Members should wait for the fruits to mature fully and wait for TEHU management to give out directives
The group management meets at least once in a month to deliberate on issues affecting the group or emerging news. On the other hand, members meet at least twice a year.
Benefits of being in the group to the farmer
After having an interview with TEHU self help group chairman Mr. Muthami, we visited a member of Tehu, Mr Kabui, a farmer of Hass avocado who hass 300 trees and here is a summary of the advantages associated with joining TEHU.
- Group creates social relations that enable individuals to achieve goals that they may not otherwise be able to achieve by themselves.
- Enable farmers to improve on fruits quality due to trainings.
- Help farmers benefit from economies of scale by lowering their costs of acquiring inputs or hiring services such as pickers and transport.
- It also empowers their members economically and socially by involving them in decision-making processes that create additional rural employment opportunities, or enable them to become more resilient to economic and environmental shocks.
- They have an easy reach to resources as group members can apply for loans on bank they operate on due to the security they have on the fruits.
- They have an easy reach to donors such as DANIDA as it has offered to construct a cold room for the group.
- They attract good hass Avocado prices as they have quantities that can interest exporters thus eliminating the broker and having a direct exporter of their produce.
How Is the Avocado Market?
According to Mr. Muthami, even if we uprooted all the other trees in Kenya and plant avocados, we wouldn’t meet the global demand of avocado. Currently avocado fruit is the most sort after because of its healthy benefits. Mexico produces more than 40% of the total global production of hass avocado. Combined with other Latin American nations they produce more than 80%.
Their avocado fruits hit the market between March and June. This is a great advantage to Kenya and other tropical countries in Africa since our avocados and especially the highlands mature at around June-September. ” If only we farmers can be patient enough and sell in August…” poses Mr. Muthami. By around that time, there are few fruits in Europe and Middle East which means, by the law of demand and supply, assuming the demand is constant, the price will definitely go higher.
“The consumer wants the product but most don’t have the conditions to grow them. Avocado oil is very expensive and it’s very hard to find it in local market. For economic returns and food security the farmers have to be into groups. Most farmers are frustrated by market when they do it individually. The more you narrow the chain of brokers the more you earn. Use good agricultural practices and channel your energy in good use” Added Mr. Muthami.
What Ministry Of Trade Should Know
County governments and national government can play a vital role in ensuring youths and farmers form groups that can help them market their produce be it fruits or veggies. Nyeri alone produces more than 10 million hass avocado but are disorganized and sell to brokers at less than Ksh 8.
Imagine, TEHU due to their bargaining power sold their fruits at Ksh 16, while most individual farmers at Ksh 8. This means more revenue is lost in Nyeri county alone. Agriculture is the backbone of Kenya in terms of GDP. It then means that if the relevant parties can come together and ensure farmers are organized, they can offer employment.
There are many beneficiaries;
- County and national governments
- Employment to the local young people
TEHU testimony should be used as an inspiration to many young people.
Where is the Future of Young People in farming?
Young people can form groups and grow crops together. Quantity is the biggest challenge, but if young people have good will, have trusts among them they can do wonders.
The world we are living in has many challenges, after completing education, most youths end up in towns, tarmacking looking for white color jobs but the money is with masses and coming together. We keep on complaining how there no jobs in Kenya, the time is now, and we must come together and fight together.