Climate smart-technologies improving livelihoods of Kenyan smallholders
Equator Kenya Ltd, a food-processing company that produces African Bird’s Eye Chilies for export, has joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA) with a commitment to provide climate-smart technologies, training and market linkages to 8,000 smallholder farmers along the Kenyan coast.
This inclusive business is designed to reduce the crop risks posed by climate change, which will sustainably increase incomes among the farmers (6,000 of whom are women) as well as improve crop yields and quality.
At the core of the initiative is a low-cost water-efficient drip irrigation kit: Equator offers farmers the opportunity to purchase the kits on credit at subsidized prices. Since 2014, more than 1,500 farmers have acquired these kits, increasing production by 54% on average while improving quality by eliminating water stress.
Drip irrigation has also allowed farmers to produce chilies for ten months of the year (compared to between four and five months previously), creating year-round income. Equator aims to distribute an additional 8,000 kits, coupled with environmentally sustainable blended fertilizers and bio-pesticides, by the end of 2020.
It will also provide marketing and sales training to more than 100 women entrepreneurs, and create ten new full-time jobs – also for women – in the company’s water filter production facility.
“Equator Kenya’s business model is guided by a social inclusion strategy where no farmer – however small – is excluded,” said Almut van Castern, the company’s CEO. “By creating linkages throughout the value chain, we will ensure that our profits – and the benefits to poor communities in Kenya’s coastal region – continue to grow.
We are honoured to be recognized by the Business Call to Action and look forward to leveraging their expertise and that of our fellow members to further our work.”
African Bird’s Eye Chilies, also known as Piri Piri, are Equator’s principle crop. This variety of chilies is highly valued in the high-end retail markets of Europe, Japan and the United States.
The company has a loyal and committed network of 7,000 active smallholder farmers working in some of Kenya’s poorest districts. In some areas, nearly 80% of Equator’s farmers are women. Most have low, seasonal incomes and many are illiterate.