Mrs. Jane Kaleha, a youthful entrepreneur, halted college to pursue her passion for farming, eager to produce quality food and make it big as a global exporter. Her thrill for farming was nevertheless mired by lack of information, the possibility of failure to access global markets, compounded by financial constraints and stiff competition.
Having quit school to pursue her passion and realizing there was no turning back, she pushed herself to think outside the box to overcome her challenges.
Perseverance and passion go a long way
While she had no contact in the global market, her breakthrough came in 2017 when she found insights on global markets and possible opportunities in farming for export from GLOBALG.A.P., an organization whose information she came across through the internet. She immediately rang some exporters whose contacts she had identified online, but they declined to visit her farm, citing non-compliance to the GLOBALG.A.P. standard and the small size of her farm.
The incident gave her impetus to find out more information about the GLOBALG.A.P. standard through her own initiative. Having equipped herself with adequate information, Jane embarked into the export industry, which she considered better regulated, consistent and profitable. This, compared to the local trade for her produce that had become unprofitable and unsustainable, as cheap produce from neighboring countries was flooding the markets with no regulations, edging her and many like her out of the market.
Planting the foundations
After taking this direction, she founded Rehani Fresh Limited in 2017, a grower and exporter of fresh-cut herbs such as basil, tarragon, chives, rosemary, oregano, mint, and thyme. The farm is located in the splendid savannah grasslands of Kinanie in Athi River, Machakos County.
With a capital of USD 70,000 for infrastructure, USD 1,500 for audit preparation, USD 1,400 for maximum residue limit testing for seven varieties, USD 200 for water and soil test and USD 720 for certification, Rehani Fresh was ready to begin. It took one year to get GLOBALG.A.P. certification after having complied with all its requirements. ‘‘We started small with 12 greenhouses. Currently, we have 43.” Jane noted.
Bumps in the road
Jane confessed that starting out had its capacity challenges. ‘‘In Kenya, we do not have yet certified plant protection products for herbs, yet it is a major compliance issue. The government needs to support us fully in addressing this.” Instead Rehani would request clients to give their approved plant protection products for use in herbs production, “which made us travel to Europe to link with clients,’’ she said.
GLOBALG.A.P. standards empower growers to get ready for the future
‘‘GLOBALG.A.P. standard has guidelines on food safety and hygiene, social and environmental aspects that helped us better manage the farm and access the European market, hence improving our profit margins,’’ Jane said.
In addition, GLOBALG.A.P. Risk Assessment on Social Practice (GRASP), a voluntary ready-to-use module designed to backstop social practices on the farm, has enabled Rehani to improve employees’ living and working standards as well as access better-paying clients. It addresses specific aspects of workers’ health, safety, and welfare.
Jane advises farmers who are considering herbs production to be passionate about their call, conduct thorough research, and engage certified experts to make the right decisions. “I hope that the government can play a role in supporting access to G.A.P. standards by smallholder farmers,” she concludes.