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Kenya Horticulture Competitiveness Project transforming the lives of smallholder farmers through modern technology

The Kenya Horticulture Competitiveness Project (KHCP), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is transforming the lives of smallholder farmers through enhanced productivity, crop diversification, and improved market access. This month’s highlights include:

  • Greenhouse tunnel technology benefits smallholder farmers
  • Horticulture export industry addresses market access challenges
  • Kenyan vegetable exporters reassure international buyers at the Fruit Logistica Fair
  • Export vegetables drive business growth for farm investors


Crops grown in open fields are vulnerable to environmental factors such as drought, excessive rainfall, and pests and diseases, which can limit yields and crop quality. To avoid this, Vegpro (K) Ltd, a USAID-KHCP partner working in Meru County, has been demonstrating greenhouse tunnels for growing snow peas and sugar snaps on the slopes of Mt. Kenya.

A total of 1,236 smallholder export farmers working under the Vegro Liki-outgrowers scheme have directly benefitted from the 19 demonstration tunnels that have been set up in the region. These farmers have shown average yield increases of 48 percent compared to open field production.

What’s more, 98 percent of the crop grown under tunnel production was marketable, compared to only 15 percent of the crop grown in open fields due to damage from hailstorms and disease infection. Each tunnel generated an average gross income of Ksh 30,745 ($384) compared to only Ksh 3,188 ($40) from the open field. In addition, the tunnel significantly increases the life cycle of the crop with a farmer harvesting 16 times more often within two months, unlike the open field where harvest happens only four times.

Out of the 1,236 farmers, more than 600 farmers have been trained at the demonstration sites in tunnel technology, drip irrigation, and safe use of pesticides. To date 29 farmers have adopted and invested in their own drip irrigation installing 18.5 acres. This month, farmers with a cumulative production area of 40 acres have sold more than 100,000 kilograms of peas to Vegpro, valued at Ksh 4.6 million ($57,705). To accelerate the adoption of the tunnel technology, USAID-KHCP is working closely with the USAID Financial Inclusion for Rural Microenterprises (FIRM) project to utilize a rigorous cost-benefit analysis that will map the best options for finance packages to encourage widespread adoption of this technology.

Peas are both a high-value and high-technology export crop for smallholders in high-altitude areas and their susceptibility to disease in harsh weather conditions is being addressed with the combination of precision irrigation and tunnel technology.

The horticulture industry export forum addresses key market access challenges.

The Fresh Produce and Exporters Association (FPEAK), in partnership with USAID-KHCP, facilitated a business forum in Nairobi to update the horticulture industry on issues regarding agrochemical maximum residue levels (MRL) on exports of pea and beans.

This is in respect to the increased sampling and controls imposed by the European Union (EU) on imports of fresh peas and beans from Kenya. The Competent Authority body, which includes the Kenya Plant Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS), Horticultural Crops Development Authority (HCDA), Pest Control Product Board (PCPB), Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), and FPEAK briefed the industry on actions undertaken so far and reassured industry on the government’s commitment to strengthen national MRL surveillance.

This will provide sufficient independent scientific data to persuade the EU to remove the need for increased monitoring, which is causing significant additional cost and delay to Kenyan exports.

The forum was graced by Dr. Wilson Songa, the Agriculture Secretary from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Regional Manager from Europe-Africa-Caribbean-Pacific Liaison Committee (COLEACP). The 105 participants representing a wide spectrum of export and agrochemical companies, certification organizations, and County Government representatives shared experiences to resolve the issues of good agricultural practices compliance and the specific challenges associated with agrochemical spraying on smallholder crops.

Kenyan vegetable exporters reassure international buyers at the Fruit Logistica Trade show.

Against the backdrop of the business forum held in Nairobi to address key market access challenges, senior executives from HCDA, FPEAK, KEPHIS, Ministry of Agriculture, PCPB and 15 exporters participated in the giant Fruit Logistica Trade Show in Berlin, Germany and updated key buyers and the global industry on steps being taken to address the issue of agrochemical residue levels on pea and bean exports.

Fruit Logistica Trade Show is the world’s leading international trade fair for the fresh fruit and vegetable export business. New regulations issued by HCDA enhance the registration and traceability systems for all fruit and vegetable exporters as part of mandatory compliance and certification to KenyaGAP. On its part, USAID-KHCP is responding to the challenges of maximum residue levels with the launch of four new partnerships with major exporters to directly address the farm level challenges of product quality and safety.

These new initiatives complement the national roll-out of a KenyaGAP training program with FPEAK that is targeting 30,000 farmers within the major fruit and vegetable export production areas.

Export vegetables drive business growth for farm investors in Makueni County.

Kinga Farm is a smallholder owned farm specializing in growing French

beans for the export market, and paw paw (papaya), capsicum, and onions for the local market. USAID-KHCP has been working with local partner WONI Exporters Ltd to help transform Kinga Farm into a commercial business, thereby increasing employment opportunities for smallholders.

By integrating a range of extension services, technical trainings, and market linkages, WONI has helped Kinga smallholder farmers dramatically scale-up French bean production. The farm has grown from 6 acres in 2010 to 22 acres today, increasing its monthly income by nearly 800 percent, from Ksh 100,000 ($1,219) in 2010 to Ksh 800,000 ($9,523) in 2013.

This expansion has created more employment opportunities, with the farm labor force growing from five individuals in 2010, to more than 80 today, most of whom are women and youth from the local community.
Over the last year, 1,625 entrepreneurial farmers (43.2 percent women) working with USAID-KHCP have sold a total of 269,500 kilograms of French beans harvested from 40 hectares, earning them Ksh
123.5 million ($162,350).



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