By Patricia Karau – PFIL staff
Francis Kimeu is standing at his mango farm (right in the middle) holding his waist with both arms. He takes a glance at what is now his pride and joy. If only he knew what he knows now, perhaps he could have better fortunes -but this is not the time for what ifs. The past belongs to history. A history he would erase if he had the ability to- but this is not the time for what ifs.
Francis requests we move under a shade before the sun gets too hot lest we wake up to sunburns the next day. He takes a long deep breath then nostalgically narrates his challenges from years back.
The father of four has been a mango farmer for 14 years in his Kingeleti village, Makueni County. The county is among the leading regions in the production of mangoes. And you’d be excused to think that if this is the case, then the farmers have been doing very well-financially.
Francis, who is now sixty-six years old, states that farmers in his region have had to endure low prices for their mango produce in spite of their good performance. Due to some brokers who at times would purchase them at very low prices.
“There has been no notable improvement in the price they offered farmers. They would at times buy small quantities and at lower prices . There have also been heavy post- harvest losses because of lack of market. Even cows used to eat mangoes to their fill and still the mangoes went to waste.”
The story of Diana Muema is no different to that of Francis. Together with her husband, they have been mango farmers since the year 2000. But in these 20 years, they had nothing to show for their hard work.
All hope was not lost for these farmers among others.
In 2019, Premier Food Industries Ltd. (PFIL) in collaboration with AgriFi Fund through the financial support of the European Union and the Slovak Aid started a pilot project to contract mango farmers in two regions- Makueni and Kwale counties. The aim of the project is to link the farmers directly to PFIL to help maximize their returns.
By contracting the farmers directly, PFIL eliminates middlemen thus providing a ready market for their produce. In addition, the project offers extension services to the farmers in these regions and also trains them on sustainable farming practices to maintain high quality produce.
“I have seen a big difference since I enrolled in this project with PFIL. The trainings that PFIL has offered us have helped me and other farmers. They have trained us on proper pest and disease management, pruning, among other things. The booklets that they also gave us a few weeks ago have also been helpful. They have good information that a farmer, if they follow, will get good results from his mango trees. The booklet has personally helped me maintain good tree hygiene which keeps away pests”, Francis says
PFIL through the extension officers, regularly send the farmers messages on good agricultural practices too.
“The messages that they have been sending out have been of benefit as they help farmers maintain a proper spraying routine while spraying the right chemicals”, affirms Francis.
Francis is now happy that since the project started, he is able to meet most of his family needs something that was an uphill task before this project.
Diana and her husband now rest easy knowing that they need not to worry about the future of their family because the returns from their mangoes will sustain them.
“I would encourage anyone who wants to grow mango trees to do so. With the availability of a ready market-which by far was our biggest challenge, regular trainings and follow up by the PFIL staff, the ‘conditions’ for growing mangoes at the moment are conducive. We are grateful for the work that PFIL has done”, Diana all smiles says.