As we drove to the outskirts of Makueni county in Kalawani sub-location, Mavinga village to visit Premier Foods Ltd. (PFL), mango farmers, we were welcomed by beautiful landscapes, hills, and mango farms. Our first stop was at Regina Kamathe Sola’s homestead, a decent home with a farm of 120 mango trees integrated with other fruit trees and legumes. It’s not the mango season yet some trees have already started to flower.
Regina, a 60-year-old farmer is among the hundreds of farmers who are part of the Mango pilot project pioneered by PFL in collaboration with the AgriFi Fund through the financial support of the European Union and Slovak Aid. The pilot project started in 2019 in two regions- Makueni and Kwale counties.
‘‘I have been practicing farming for over 40 years, however, I joined the pilot project in 2020 when Covid-19 was at its peak.’’ Says Regina.
‘‘I was a bit skeptical when I first joined this project because I had collaborated with brokers before, and they frustrated me. I remember considering cutting down all the mango trees to start farming something else.’’ She added.
However, she told us that her mind changed after being taken through trainings on the right pesticides to use, disease management, and pruning among other things which led to the harvest of about 1500 kilos of mangoes which were all picked by PFL and paid for.
Several other farmers shared the same sentiments with Regina, Patrick Mwaka mentioned that they were provided with fruit fly traps, dam liners, seedlings, pesticides, and training, especially on pest control which has enabled him to harvest 2000 kilos from a farm with 37 mango trees.
He adds that one advantage of this project is that PFL picks all the mangoes available regardless of the size, and they would leave one tree as per requests of the farmers for family consumption. He further mentions that before this project brokers would pick only a few suitable mangoes and leave the rest which was a huge loss.
‘‘I have been farming mangoes for the past 30 years, I have 70 trees, and this has been the source of livelihood for me and my family. Joining this project enabled me to buy a cow for milk.’’ Said David Sanga from Kakuzi village.
The goal of the project was to develop a more inclusive and climate adaptive value chain by directly engaging small-scale farmers to sustainably grow and supply mangoes to PFL. Over 2000 farmers were recruited, more than 1000 extension services and trainings were provided, over 15000 mango tree seedlings were distributed to farmers and the project also created employment opportunities for hundreds of people including youth.