This is what the future could look like….
Picture this: a Kenya that produces enough fruit and vegetables to serve the local market, and export internationally. Farms that produce multiple crops year round, using natural irrigation and soils that are healthier than ever. A well organized food value chain that results in practically zero food loss and, though the globe is warming, farmers have adopted both crops and practices that flourish in this new climate.
In this future farmers, both men and women alike, are plugged into a wealth of information, from logistics and demand to weather and prices. This enables better choices to be made, resulting in increased profits, opportunities to acquire new land and the elevation of farming as a profession.
Unfortunately, this is far from being the case…
Today in Kenya farming is a not so profitable business with a bleak future. Extraordinarily high rates of food loss, the threat of a changing climate and lack of any real formalized infrastructure means the country falls short of reaching its potential production capacity. Crucially, this capacity needs to be met to meet the demands of a growing world population, set to require 100% more food by 2050.
Our vision for Kenya is to become the country where farming is an attractive business, professionally producing an abundance of fruits and vegetables, while keeping the soil healthy and resilient.Fennie Lansbergen, Head of FoodFlow Program
What’s needed: A 0% loss food chain
To grow towards producing an abundance of food, we must first start by building a professional, commercial value chain in Kenya and secondly, improve the production of food. A professional value chain can minimize the current post-harvest food loss from the current and staggering 40% to 0%. This ambitious vision can be achieved in large part by structuring the value chain; professionalizing the aggregation of produce, and building the bridge between farmer and buyer.
This formalized value chain, capable of absorbing, preserving and selling larger amounts of produce will mean that farmers are able to sell more of what they grow, resulting in both a higher and more stable income. Moreover, as they are included in the value chain with more information, they are able to grow from subsistence farmers to commercial farmers. We see these value chain interventions as prerequisites for the transition of farmers to more sustainable (regenerative) farming practices. A steady income will provide the much needed space and peace of mind to allow farmers to think about change and expansion.
Led by the market
Crucially, this 0% loss chain should be shaped by the market. This means approaching these challenges from the starting point of the buyer. In the Kenyan context this will take the form of building an infrastructure that allows large buyers to effectively and efficiently source from smallholders.
Through aggregating smallholder produce and formally presenting it within an IT system supply and demand can be properly matched. Not only does this allow market demand to be filled more efficiently, but goes a long way towards eliminating existing loss within the food chain, a significant portion of which is the result of supply demand mismatches in today’s informal value chain.
This market led approach goes hand in hand with our ambition of a 0% loss chain. Beyond being a contributor to food insecurity, needless carbon emissions, farmer poverty and Kenya’s current food losses are a form of market inefficiency. Formalizing the value chain from the perspective of the buyer will both cut losses and result in more profitable business, for farmer and buyer alike.
Supported by sustainable practices and healthy soil
After developing a professional value chain, regenerating soils is the second step in building a resilient country with an abundance of fresh food. In this stage farmers grow from commercial farming to sustainable (regenerative) farming.
Globally agriculture is threatened by our changing climate and Kenya is no exception. To ensure a future for farming in the country, the very soil with which farmers work must itself become resilient, able to better withstand the effects of flooding and drought. By using regenerative practices such as crop diversification, no tilling, no pesticides and including grazing we can increase soil biodiversity, and organic matter. By doing this farmers can build soils that are resilient and capable of producing larger yields of crops that are more nutrient rich. A win, win, win scenario.
Achieving this is no easy task and there are still many services missing in the ecosystem that would make the transition to these new practices easier. Some of the most important being transition finance, implementation of support packages and offtake agreements for a diverse range of crops. To support African smallholder farmers in making this transition we are exploring a brand new program with the exclusive goal of developing resilient soil. Stay tuned!
This is what we need to do, together
We are in need of a system where smallholder farmers can live well from regenerative farming. There are two stages required to reach that new system.
The first stage is for smallholder farmers to go from subsistence to commercial farming. This requires a structured 0% loss supply chain, with formalized aggregation and direct cooperation between farmers and buyers, with value chain interventions FoodFlow is testing and implementing now.
The second stage is going from commercial farming to regenerative farming, meaning farmers will not only be able to run a profitable farm, but do so in a way that’s sustainable for the planet and for them. To drive a transition towards regenerative farming there is a need for scalable business models that include regenerative implementation support, financial instruments to fund the transition period and offtake agreements for a diversified set of crops.
Do you also believe in this combination? And are you working towards the same goal? Get in touch so we can join forces.