90% of all produce in Kenya is grown by smallholder farmers. Over 15 million Kenyans directly rely on the food they produce to survive and yet, despite this core role, the existing food value chain is deeply flawed and in dire need of change.
Post-harvest food losses are currently between 40-50%, a result of an unreliable collection system, an informal infrastructure network – often passing through 5-7 informal brokers before reaching the consumer – and a mismatch of supply and demand. Enviu’s newest partnership is with Taimba, a farm-to-fork logistics company that eliminates post-harvest food loss and realizes fair value distribution to farmers and Mama Mbogas (informal micro retailers) alike, by drastically shortening and professionalizing the food value chain.
Let’s look at why this change is so necessary.
A dysfunctional food value chain: informal, inefficient and unreliable.
For smallholder farmers in Kenya bringing a crop to harvest is no small feat. A successful harvest means hundreds of hours of hard manual labor, struggling with underdeveloped infrastructure, working around a lack of modern pesticides, fertilizers, seed varieties, all whilst managing poor quality soils. And yet due to fundamental issues with Kenya’s food value chain, all this work could end up being for nothing.
Under the current system, after harvesting a ripened crop, smallholders have no choice other than to wait for an agent to visit their farm during the narrow window when the crop is still good to sell. Should the agent arrive too late the farmers crop will perish and the time, labor, and carbon put into its production will be lost along with the produce itself. It is this informal, unreliable and inefficient system that leads to food losses as high as 40-50%.
That this system is dysfunctional is clear. Yet until recently there has been no substantial effort to repair the value chain itself. Whilst certain initiatives provide infrastructure for large scale commercial farms, smallholders, the backbone of Kenya’s agricultural output, have no choice but to rely on informal alternatives.
It’s well understood that smallholder farmers need assistance, yet the majority of current programs focus on training and educating farmers. Though these programs play a crucial role in formalizing value chains, after speaking to farmers themselves it’s clear they need the next step, a market and stable demand for their produce.
How Taimba is drastically shortening the food value chain
This is where Taimba is stepping in, working from the bottom up to provide farmers with what they need. Their farm to fork logistics solution operates directly between farm and Mama Mboga, formalizing the value chain and providing a much needed market and stable demand. Farmers no longer risk perishable crops waiting for buying agents, they simply receive direct pickup from Taimba agents, who track the correct harvest date upon signing with participating farmers.
They are able to offer farmers payment and stable demand as they then sell this produce directly to the Mama Mboga’s who need it. These sellers can make an order when they need it most via app or call. This on-demand system is crucial, accommodating for local irregularities in sales volume.
This formalization creates double impact, environmentally and socially. With regards to social impact farmers now earn a fair price for 100% of the produce that they own, rather than what survives the wait for an agent to arrive. This, combined with not being forced to rely on a network of as many as 5-7 informal brokers means farmers can earn a sustainable income. This is distinct from the current agent-based system in which a farmer may sometimes even fail recover his costs.
Environmentally, increased efficiency results in less food loss. Less land is required to grow more food. Importantly, reducing this food loss also means reducing net carbon emissions as a greater amount of usable food is obtained from the same amount of carbon output.
Now is the time to scale
Taimba and Enviu have partnered with the DOEN foundation as part of their mission to reduce post-harvest food loss to reach climate change goals. This invaluable support will allow Taimba to scale its operations and invest in cold storage and cold logistics – enabling them to account for a greater lag time between supply and demand and, increase the range of produce they are able to properly store.
Enviu will be working closely with Dominique Kavuisya, Taimba’s CEO whose wealth of experience in IT and fast-moving consumer goods will leave them well positioned to scale rapidly.
Towards A Zero Loss Food Chain
Taimba represents a key link in the food chain being build by Enviu’s food program ReChain.This program will act as a model chain of disruptive ventures, that drive the market towards a new normal.
We’re pursuing the lofty ambition of reaching a zero-loss food chain and know that can’t be done with just one venture, which is why Taimba fits between our existing venture Sokofresh (onsite cold storage) and, our early ideations on processing and transport.
Together these ventures form what Abundance Insider describes as the “future of food”, a “zero-food waste, closed loop value chain” which “elimina[tes] the intermediary between rural farmer and retailer mak[ing] the process of food supply and demand far more efficient” whilst simultaneously “preserving ecological farming practices and perhaps even making them more innovative… through cashless technology platforms that help them directly track data-rich demand patterns.”