Averting climate change risks to agribusiness in Kenya
With her will and vision, Kenyan entrepreneur Yvonne Otieno maintains sustainable production practices.
Behind Yvonne Otieno’s vibrant smile is a journey marked by empathy, resilience, and determination.
She knows that she can find solutions – always!
The lack of reliable sources of income for her own family and women and youth of her community was not something she accepted as their fate.
Starting first with a family farm, she is now the Chief Executive Officer of Miyonga Fresh Greens, an agroprocessing small business based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Beginning her entrepreneurial journey, Yvonne enrolled in a business acceleration programme. This helped her achieve her business dream, which in turn helped create new employment opportunities.
“We needed to switch from farming to agribusiness and within a year, we moved from solely farming to exporting. And now we are an agroprocessor.”
The 1.5-acre family farm has now transformed into a company producing fruit products and exporting dried and powdered products made from mango, pineapple, coconut, and banana.
Looking back at her company’s achievements, Yvonne remembers the challenges she had to overcome.
Climate change posed its own set of obstacles.
Heavy and frequent rainfall, an increase in average temperatures and unpredictable distribution of annual rainfall are major climatic changes in the company’s sourcing region. This could result in yield shortages, inferior quality, post-harvest losses, pests and diseases, affecting productivity production.
It was clear to her that without support, the company would not be able to deliver on the demands of the customers.
“We did not do this alone. It was possible with the help of partners”.
She had to meet specific requirements for quality and sources of inputs, community engagement, human rights, labour practices and advocacy for fairtrade principles in the supply chain to obtain Fairtrade certification.
It was then that Yvonne had her company participate in climate resilience and voluntary sustainability standards programmes. She worked with international experts to develop a three-step business plan that integrates climate change mitigation and requirements of voluntary sustainable standards.
“We have a checklist for each of the sustainability standards. The checklist helps us assess our status and improve compliance. It would have cost us huge bills and consultancy fees just to do the initial assessment.”
As part of the business plan, Yvonne is increasing the acreage under certification. The company currently works with about 2,400 smallholder farmers, many of whom are already Global G.A.P. certified. Around 800 of the farmers will be certified organic over the next year.
The company is now on its way to obtain FairTrade certification.
She has also introduced a bespoke mobile factory that is able to process produce at farm site. The factory is fitted with a solar panel that power a miller. The mobile factory is instrumental in reducing post-harvest losses, and reducing energy used to transport the supplies to the packaging site.
As part of the strategy, Yvonne also plans to have franchises to the mobile factory to help meet customers’ demand.
“Our goal is to standardize operations and offer farming communities the skills to dry and process export quality product, thus empowering them to become processors instead of mere growers”.
Yvonne’s business is doing well by catering to a high market demand for both conventional and organic, dried fruits. She is increasingly relying on smallholder farmer support to meet the increasing sustainability requirements from buyers.
Her passion to serve those around her remains fresh.
“Most of our fruits are organically grown. With support in auditing and processing capacity, the farmers are enroute to better income, and we deeply care about this!”
Yvonne received support from the International Trade Centre (ITC) to develop and implement her business plan. She is an alumnus of the ITC SheTrades project and has also benefited from the GreenToCompete’s Climate Resilience and Voluntary Sustainability Standards coaching programmes.
Miyonga has successfully embraced green trade practices and working further to boost innovation and improve their resilience.