Smallholders in the South encounter numerous difficulties on a daily basis. First of all, they face many risks: climate change, epidemics, commodity price volatility, etc. Access to the market and very fluctuating demand make them even more vulnerable. So it is difficult to have a stable income and cope with unexpected events. But it is not all doom and gloom.
“Sometimes we harvest a lot of beans but we don’t manage to sell them, and other times, when our harvests are small, buyers ask us for more.” explains Nyambura, a woman farmer in Kenya. “Fortunately, now I sell my production to Vert Ltd. which buys fixed quantities at a price that is also fixed.”
Vert, an innovative model
Vert is a Kenyan business that exports fresh fruit and vegetables to Europe. The company, which was established in the year 2000, has adapted its business model over the years to respond better to the European market and laws. Vert has introduced a more sustainable model, working directly with small, local farmers who are organised in small groups. Vert provides farmers with technical assistance to improve the quality of their products and ensure that they are better equipped to deal with any problems that arise. Finally, Vert takes care of the ‘fair trade’ and ‘global gap’ certification (standard criteria for exporting fresh fruit and vegetables to Europe) for the products it exports.
Advantages for small-scale farmers
Thanks to these many advantages, small-scale farmers who work with Vert have access to the market and learn to manage their plantations better. They are also part of the fair-trade circuit, which brings them a series of additional advantages. First of all, they receive a minimum price and a collective premium for the entire group of farmers. In addition, control of and the decision-making processes within each group are more democratic and the farmers have the chance to export their vegetables on niche markets. Finally, product traceability is better and the vegetables are grown in a manner that respects nature.
Opportunities to be seized
In total, over 1,500 producers in Kenya work with Vert. Thanks to the geographic distribution of the farmers, Vert limits the risks of poor harvests linked to the climate. To diversify its risks still further, the business is also planning to start selling mango and passion fruit pulp on the local market. In fact, many of the producers who already work with Vert have mangoes. They could therefore also sell this production at a fair price and generate additional income. So a whole new market is opening up in which they can become a major player. “I throw away most of my mango harvest.” Nyambura tells us. “I hope that we will soon be able to sell mangoes to Vert as well. That will give us extra income that we need so much to provide for our families.” Alterfin has financed Vert through the Fefisol fund since 2014.