A basic prerequisite for growing export success are safe conditions in the fresh mango business. Packaging, of course. Photo: Wipf AG

A basic prerequisite for growing export success are safe conditions in the fresh mango business. Packaging, of course, plays a decisive role here since it also ensures fruit quality over long transport distances and has to comply with international safety standards. Photo: Wipf AG

Success Formula

SAVE FOOD Initiative advances Mango Project in Kenya

Mangoes that cannot satisfy hunger

Food and especially fruit exports are one of the most important sources of revenue in Kenya. Looking at the figures one thing becomes clear: in southern Africa alone some 50% of the fruit and vegetables grown perish during production, storage, transport or processing and therefore never end up on the market. For the farmers, whose existence depends on selling these products, these are unacceptable conditions.

Take the example of mangoes. Approximately 300,000 tons of the mangoes grown in Kenya never make it to market. Plenty of fruit already spoils on the tree since farmers lack the resources to harvest it on time; a major proportion also gets lost during the following steps because fruit is stored poorly or for too long, is not processed quickly enough or is transported with poor protection and/or in an untimely manner. In view of the enormous poverty in the country these are untenable conditions.

According to data provided by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), up to 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted on a global scale every year. This food spoils on its way from field to fork, does not comply with standards and is therefore disposed of as unsaleable or is simply not consumed in time. These are shocking figures that constitute a major problem, not only in the view of the Food and Agricultural Organisation, but also because the food wasted produces some 3.3 gigatons of CO2 emissions every year.

Shelf life is the key

However, there is hope when listening to success stories like that of the company Azuri Health and its general manager Tei Mukunya. For five years Mukunya had been serving one of the world’s biggest tobacco companies as a marketing consultant when she accepted a consulting job with Kenyan mango farmers for a development project. Shocked by the high losses Mukunya decided to establish her own company and take care of the mango problem. She soon found out that drying is the best way to keep the fruit from spoiling. So in a hut in her backyard along with four women from the village she started to manually peel and cut the mangos to then process them with the help of an electric dehydrating device and a solar dehydrator, processing them into aromatic dried fruit.

Success – hand-made

“I did not have a clue about this business initially. I knew my way around numbers and marketing channels but not agricultural production. I had to learn all of this,” says Mukunya. Only ten years later the little operation in her backyard has become an expanding business with 30 members of staff, a small yet refined manufacturing line and a monthly output of some ten tons of dried mango. And figures are rising.
Success formula: Dry mangoes and prevent them from spoiling. Photo: Azuri Health

Success formula: Dry mangoes and prevent them from spoiling. Photo: Azuri Health

International Support

This success required not only local partners but above all the right know-how and the necessary infrastructure. The entrepreneur found this support in the form of the SAVE FOOD Initiative by FAO, UNEP and Messe Düsseldorf as well as its members, the packaging producer WIPF, the associations EAFA - European Aluminium Foil Association e.V. and FPE – Flexible Packaging Europe, machine manufacturer Multivac, the Bosch Group, printing ink manufacturer Siegwerk and with the consultancy africon. As a result the Kenyan self-made enterprise became a project with international participation. In addition to financial aids Azuri Health received important advice on the construction and operation of new plants, on necessary lean-management measures and – last but not least – the right contacts for a network expected to support the major goal of exporting to Europe, Great Britain, USA and Japan.

A first step has already been taken: in autumn 2016 construction of the new production site in Thika near Nairobi started. Here, a production site will emerge that lives up to international standards and can cope with the scheduled expansion in production. The construction was made possible by funds from the SAVE FOOD Initiative – and the money required for new dehydrating devices has also been generated by fund-raising activities.
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