Integrating Smallholders into Global Avocado Value Chains

We are teaming up to improve fairness, inclusivity, transparency, and traceability into avocado value chains.

Our project with One Acre Fund, Sokolink, begins in the heart of Murang’a County in Kenya and follows the stories of smallholder avocado farmers who tell of the stumbling blocks that barred them from getting their full work’s worth. Even though avocados are harvested daily, farm dynamics, including poor storage and insufficient infrastructure, often lead to a loss of produce by up to 50%. In a rush to sell their remaining stock, farmers are often placed at the mercy of brokers who work across a long trading chain that leaves farmers at a loss.

It is against this backdrop that we created Sokolink to prevent food loss, and connect smallholder farmers across Kenya’s avocado value chain to markets to increase the incomes of farming families. Partnering with One Acre Fund, we at Enviu are doubling farmer incomes by linking their produce directly to export markets, such as in the Netherlands, that pay a premium for quality products. 

All big dreams start with the first steps. SokoLink’s avocados’ first destination is in the Netherlands! Our partnership has gone deeper to find out where better margins can be found, and how best we can channel transparent production from smallholder farmers deep into the European market. 

Partnering to better the lives of smallholder farmers

Agriculture dominates sub-Saharan Africa’s economies, and over 70 percent of rural communities make their living through farming. But farmers have difficulty selling their products because there are few reliable markets. Without the ability to sustainably market their produce, many smallholders often fail to realize the full value of their work’s worth.

We are taking small steps to create impact in a big way. With an initial focus on Kenya, Enviu, and its venture SokoFresh have partnered with One Acre Fund to create SokoLink, a project funded by P4G — a Kenyan market-based project whose goal is to reduce post-harvest food losses by removing inefficiencies in the supply chain. 

This partnership was born out of the realization that our organizations address unique challenges to empower smallholders to chart sustainable pathways out of poverty. With Enviu’s 17 years of venture building experience, One Acre Fund expertise in farmer engagement & inputs provision, SokoFresh’s cold storage and market linkage expertise, and P4G’s platform, technical assistance, and financing support — we can empower farmers to significantly improve their incomes.  Under this project, we are helping make the avocado value chain more inclusive and transparent by enabling farmers to get a fair price for their produce.

“Farmers are essential for our survival and P4G is committed to backing solutions that improve the lives of farmers and the land that we all depend on. Partnerships like SokoLink show how innovative locally-led solutions can deliver a triple bottom line impact of social, environmental and financial results while simultaneously disrupting the value chain to make it more inclusive and equitable. So far, we’ve created initial transparency across the value chain from farm to the buyer through manual traceability. By writing on crates, we indicate which farmer the produce came from and this is traced up to the buyer in Europe. Currently, we are working towards developing technology that will automate this process” — Ian de Cruz, Global Director, P4G 

Impacting producers in the long term 

Although this is not the first time certified Kenyan farmers are tapping into global markets, our partnership is creating opportunities for often marginalized communities, who have experienced market access challenges for a long time.

Our early pilots have demonstrated strong potential to increase farmer income, while supporting long-term sustainability. By ensuring all farmers within the partnership adopt the production guidelines outlined in the Global G.A.P guidelines — on food safety and nutritional security through minimizing the use of harmful chemicals and environmental conservation — farmers can continue to access export markets for years to come.

“Historically, One Acre Fund has supported smallholders by supplying inputs and credit. Learning how to train them, apply a global standard, and manage a value chain from tree to export destination has been quite a journey! We are excited to leverage our footprint and closeness to farmers to show that global trade can be inclusive and works better when farmers are bought in” — [Barthelemy Cabouat, Market Access Associate, One Acre Fund]

First destination: The Netherlands

We’ve seen this partnership’s first milestone come to life and have delivered the first batch of avocados into the Netherlands, exposing farmers to the first of the sustainability-driven markets we target. By providing a direct link from farm to market, farmers retain more revenue from their avocado sales. As farmers increase their earnings, they will be empowered to invest in their future and drive further positive change in their communities.

A partnership to serve people and planet

As our work continues to take shape, we’re not stopping here. After this initial project, we are keen to scale, serve smallholders across Kenya, and continue growing to expand across the continent. 

It is our belief that the partnership represents a step forward for smallholders in Kenya; raising new opportunities to earn a higher income by cutting out ineffeciencies in transporting their produce, and by being able to contribute to an organized business structure with worldwide consumers.

“Our three organizations have come together to demonstrate the power of collaboration to serve systemic problems. Through our work, we hope to provide a blueprint for other such partnerships to thrive” —[Arpana Philip, Sr. Venture Builder, Enviu]

If you are keen to partner, share ideas, or simply want to know more, please reach out to Sr. Venture Builder, Arpana Philip at arpana@enviu.org.

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