November 23-24, 2017 – Two workshops were held in Kenya this month as part of the Productive Employment in Segmented Markets of fresh produce in Kenya (PRESM) project. A knowledge-sharing workshop was held November 23 in Thika and a scientific workshop was held November 24 in Nairobi.
PRESM investigates alternative approaches for modernizing the avocado sector in Kenya. It evaluates the impact of these approaches on the productive employment of small-scale avocado growers. The project focuses on the benefits, costs, and constraints associated with producing for modern, export-focused markets, instead of for traditional, locally-oriented markets. Findings from the project provides insights into how the Kenyan avocado sector value chains can be modernized.
Fifty-one project stakeholders—including farmers and exporters, researchers, and Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Trade officers—attended a knowledge-sharing workshop in Thika, Kenya, on November 23, 2017.
The event provided an opportunity for the researchers to present and discuss the findings of the PRESM project. In particular, those present considered how access to modern avocado markets can be expanded to benefit farmers and exporters.
The workshop presentations discussed the costs and benefits of participating in the modern sector, the dynamics of avocado contract farming in Kenya, and a support strategy for farmers so they can take advantage of export opportunities.
Researchers shared their key findings, which included identifying poverty as the main reason for side-selling. A lack of trust between farmers and exporters was also found be a significant factor with contract violations being common.
Other challenges identified in the research include the marginalization of youth and women, lack of adequate training, inadequate and erratic rainfall. The presenters also proposed several solutions, including installing irrigation systems, promoting training, and setting up a lobby to implement and ensure adherence to laws and regulations.
As well as looking at the challenges facing Kenya, researchers shared lessons the country can take from Peru to expand avocado exports. Ricardo Fort, a senior researcher at GRADE (pictured, left) explained: "Sanitary protocol and fruit fly control have played a very key role in boosting avocado exports in Peru." Overall, the potential for expanding Kenya’s access to the international avocado markets is high.
Discussions and Q&A sessions followed the presentations. The event also included a forum discussion on how Kenya can obtain more benefits from expanding access to the international avocado markets.
Prof Jane Mariara, Executive Director of PEP and PRESM Co-Principal Investigator (pictured, left) gave the event’s opening and closing remarks, thanking all present for their participation. She also chaired the forum discussion.
A scientific workshop was held in Nairobi, Kenya, on November 24, 2017 to disseminate and discuss the research findings and policy options presented in several PRESM project papers. The workshop brought together researchers from a number of universities and think tanks, representatives of the Embassy of the Netherlands and the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, and other stakeholders.
Rose Makenzi, representative of the Embassy of the Netherlands, provided opening remarks. She said: “PRESM is a very timely project as it addresses key topics around sustainable incomes, agribusiness, and inclusion.” She also highlighted the importance of the PRESM findings and recommendations for their relevance beyond the avocado sector to other related fruit and vegetable value chains.
Workshop sessions included presentations on the impact of training, certification, and contracting on productive employment in the avocado sector, non-market barriers to entry into the modern avocado sector, and determinants and impacts of side-selling in avocado contract farming.
Remco Oostendorp, PRESM Co-Principal Investigator from VU Amsterdam (pictured, right) set the scene, explaining: “The challenge is to transform the sector from a largely unprogrammed world to a programmed world in a way that benefits Kenyan exporters and smallholder farmers.” He described the Kenyan avocado market as relatively amorphous, saying that most production is "from smallholder farmers, who are mostly selling through brokers into wholesale markets."
The presenters cited several specific obstacles to productive employment in Kenya’s avocado sector. Women’s lack of access to capital and training, and their limited ownership of avocado trees explain women’s low participation in the avocado value chain.
Most contract farmers are men between 40 and 80 years old but only around one third have secondary education and literacy levels are low. Their lack of understanding of applicable laws and regulations is linked to contract violations, a lack of trust with exporters, and side-selling.
The workshop’s 38 participants agreed that the papers presented provided very important evidence but that further research into the sector’s key issues is necessary.
Both workshops provided important opportunities for PRESM researchers to share various aspects of the knowledge generated through the project with target audiences. Insights from the workshops will contribute to the PRESM project policy recommendations aiming to ensure productive employment in the sector, including for women and youth - two groups who have been found to be marginalized in the high value avocado chain.
PRESM is part of the research agenda of the Knowledge Platform on Inclusive Development Policies and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands through NWO-WOTRO. It is coordinated through a consortium of international research organisations: Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP), Vrije Universiteit (VU Amsterdam), Amsterdam Institute of Global Health and Development (AIGHD), the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK), Grupo de Análisis para el Desarrollo (GRADE), and the University of Nairobi
PRESM is supported by