Working Hand-in-Hand to Support Kenyan Farmers’ Climate Resilience

“Farmers in Kenya rely on rainfed agriculture. They are especially vulnerable to droughts and flooding that can potentially destroy their crops. Farmers face many challenges, ranging from growing unsuitable varieties of crops in the wrong ecological zones, to lacking a prerequisite certification that would grant them market access, to post-harvest losses caused by the lack of application of modern-day cutting-edge farming technology” Yvonne Otieno explains.

The founders of Miyonga: Yvonne and Dorothy Otieno (Alan Mola)

As the founder and CEO of Miyonga, Yvonne deals with these challenges every day. Her company is active in the processing and exporting of fruits and vegetables grown in Kenya.

In 2015, Miyonga began as a small-scale operation located on Yvonne’s own land. As the years passed by, Miyonga kept growing and now it provides customers in various European countries with fresh produce, dried and powdered fruits.

In order to meet a rising demand for fresh and processed fruits, Miyonga started working with contract farmers located in Kenya’s different climatic regions. The diversification of agricultural product sourcing and the different regional harvest periods allows for year-round operations. However, the fruits and vegetables still require transportation from their various locations to the processing and packing facility in Nairobi. For Miyonga, this represents a significant cost and risk in quality losses as the products make the long journey from the farmers’ gates to the capital of Kenya.

In response, Yvonne invested in a mobile processing facility, which is essentially a 40-foot shipping container with an integrated dryer. She now eagerly awaits its delivery from South Africa. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly slowed down the shipping process. Once the system arrives in Kenya, the fruits will no longer be dried in Nairobi. The drying will be done at the aggregation sites, where the farmers can bring their fruits and vegetables for processing. The mobile factory will then move from one aggregation site to another, depending on when produce is ready to be harvested and processed.

Processing fruits into dried or powdered products gives value to surplus and second grade fruits that are perfectly nutritious but would not make it to national or international markets. By using these previously lost crops, the contracted farmers are able to sell more of their harvest and increase their income.

Above – Miyonga Team (Miyonga). Below – Packing of products (Miyonga).

While scaling up her business and reaching more farmers, Yvonne Otieno received support from international partner organizations and programs, like the BMZ lab of tomorrow, Sinapis, Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI, and the Kenya Climate Innovation Center.

“The training and support received from various partners has been invaluable. Often small enterprises lack the technical expertise, or the funding required to hire experts that have the required skills.”

Yvonne’s enthusiasm in leading Miyonga and working with farmers led to a cooperation agreement with Water and Energy for Food (WE4F)’s East Africa Regional Innovation Hub (East Africa RIH). The Integrated Development Partnership with the Private Sector (iDPP), is an eye-to-eye partnership where both sides agree on activities that are beneficial for the greater good, but also for the private company. The activities’ costs are split equally between the partners.

Miyonga and the East Africa RIH’s partnership focuses on supporting farmers’ climate resilience efforts and piloting climate-smart food processing. Miyonga and the East Africa RIH provide contracted farmers with training on good agricultural practices. The training supports them in adapting to the effects of climate change, increasing their yield and decreasing pre- and post-harvest losses. Farmers also receive support to pursue organic certification, which will open up new markets and help meet the growing demand for organic products.

Processing fruits into dried or powdered products gives value to surplus and second grade fruits that are perfectly nutritious but would not make it to national or international markets. By using these previously lost crops, the contracted farmers are able to sell more of their harvest and increase their income.

Dried fruit by Miyonga (Alan Mola).

Miyonga and the East Africa RIH partnership will also pilot a solar-powered mill and cold storage. These technologies will complement the mobile factory, making it a first-of-its-kind, green energy innovation. When fruits are delivered in bulk, the cold storage extends their shelf-life until they can be processed. The mill transforms dried fruits into fruit powder, adding even more value to second grade fruits and increasing Miyonga’s product range.

Extreme weather events and changing rainfall patterns are part of the climatic changes experienced by Kenyan farmers. Miyonga helps farmers develop climate resiliency by focusing on resource use and developing systems that meets farmers’ needs. By working hand-in-hand with companies like Miyonga, the East Africa RIH impacts local business environments and helps develop stronger locally-based businesses.

The first partnership activities are currently being implemented by the East Africa RIH and Miyonga – both sides are thrilled to see how the project will evolve over the next 2 years.

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