Hillside Green Growers, contributing to food security
The ‘Role of Small and Medium Agro-Enterprises in achieving food security’ was the subject of a KLV Alumni ‘World Lecture’ that took place on January 15, 2014 in the Impulse Building of Wageningen UR. To this end KLV had invited AAA Member Mrs Eunice Mwongera from Kenya, who is the owner of Hillside Green Growers. Hillside Green Growers is an SME that is engaging smallholder farmers in the Mt Kenya Region in value chains in quality fresh fruits (mango, avocado, passion fruit) and vegetables (beans, sugar snaps, carrots, chillies, aubergines) for markets in Europe, the Middle East and local.
For a mixed audience of over 80 students, researchers, lecturers, entrepreneurs, NGO representatives and policy makers, Mrs Mwongera explained and showed what her company is doing and how, in particular in the absence of enabling governmental policies and services. Extension towards participating farmers, for example –training in agronomic practices, crop protection, fertilizer use- are all provided through Hillside Green Growers and its NGO partners. The smallholder farmers (typically owning 0.2-10 ha of land and supporting some 5-20 dependents) work on contract basis with Hillside.
Hillside Green Growers is a family business of about 1.3 million Euro annual turnover, that employs some 150 people as field support staff and in the pack house in Nairobi, mainly single mothers from the Kibera city slum. Certified quality production, value addition (packing) and marketing of the products are the main objectives. Associated farmers, about 8000, benefit through increased productivity, prompt payment at guaranteed prices and spending the extra income earned on investments in the farm house, the family and in farm operations.
In the lively discussions that followed Mrs Mwongera’s presentation, critical questions centred on the effectiveness of export-oriented value chains in achieving local food –and nutrition- security, the ecological impact of pesticides and fertilizers, the needs and ways of farmer training –what role for governments?- and how the positive example and experiences provided by Hillside Green Growers can be out-scaled to other areas in Kenya and indeed to other African countries.
The latter two issues are among the main objectives of AAA, the Africa Agribusiness Academy, a joint activity of SME agri-entrepreneurs in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, and Wageningen UR Centre for Development Innovation. AAA designs and implements coaching trajectories between established African agri-entrepreneurs like Mrs Mwongera and their young and promising counterparts. Coaching support covers areas such as technical skills training, business administration and the write-up of bankable business proposals.
AAA, an original initiative of the Wageningen Ambassadors, is a member-based platform that is funded by the AAA entrepreneurs themselves –about 100 SME’s presently- and a number of private sponsors (through the Wageningen University Fund) , both from Africa and the Netherlands, and receives co-financing from the Netherlands Government. The AAA is technically supported by CDI and a number of independent senior advisers.