“18 April 2019 was a great day for me. I made my first supply of tomatoes to Naivasha Kongoni Lodge”, says Zaineb Malicha, a smallholder farmer from Kenya’s Lake Naivasha Basin, after securing a contract to supply her vegetables to a nearby hotel.
Zaineb is just one of thousands of farmers living in and around the Lake Naivasha Basin, a freshwater lake in the Rift Valley that’s integral to both Kenya’s biodiversity and its economy. A mosaic of ecosystems, it has been designated as a wetland of international importance, is home to a multitude of bird species and hosts one of the country’s key water towers.
The area is also the hub of Kenya’s horticulture industry, a vital sector that directly and indirectly employs more than 50,000 people, generating 70% of Kenya’s cut flower exports, estimated to generate around 9% of Kenya’s export income.
But the Lake Naivasha Basin is under severe pressure. A combination of unsustainable agriculture, inappropriate land use and the destruction of woodland - often carried out by smallholder farmers - is damaging ecosystems, reducing the quality and quantity of freshwater and threatening the area’s ability to sustain the livelihoods that so many depend on.
Through the Green Horticulture at Lake Naivasha (GOALAN) project - an EU funded initiative - WWF-Kenya is working with farmers on the adoption of sustainable consumption and production practices that will conserve the landscape, while also helping them gain access to local and international markets to sell their produce.
Focusing on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) the project is also aimed at promoting greater inclusion of women and youth in the horticulture industry, while creating green jobs(Young people comprise 64% ounemployed Kenyans, with the majority moving away from the agricultural sector to urban areas to find work).
Since the project’s inception in 2018, 190 MSMEs have been trained in sustainable production and consumption practices. This comprises instruction on efficient water use, soil and water conservation, agroforestry, the use of certified seeds, optimal use of organic fertilizer, soil testing, the safe use of pesticides, post-harvest handling, social welfare and integrated pest management.
Further training is also provided on financial management and business planning, equipping MSMEs with the skills and knowledge to access fiunding, negotiate contracts, and manage the seasonality of their produce to continuously provide what buyers want. Meanwhile, MSMEs run by youth and women are provided with essential equipment including greenhouses, solar pumps and water storage tanks.
Finally, WWF-Kenya helps link these farmers to reliable markets to increase their income and reduce food wastage caused by post-harvest losses. So far, three farmer groups comprising 91 MSMEs have secured contracts with four hotels, a potato processing company and a fresh produce export company for the supply of green produce.
"We have realised that embracing drip irrigation, mulching our crops, embracing greenhouse farming and harvesting rainwater is a sure way of tackling the erratic weather patterns," says Zaineb.
“Before then, more than half of my harvest would go to waste while the rest was sold at a throw-away price. I am happy that I will be supplying this hotel for the next six months. Through the linkage, I am assured of a reliable market, constant pay and therefore able to plan my expenses including ploughing more into my farm.”