Stekar Foods: Exporting fruits and vegetables to uplift Kenyan farmers
Smallholder farmers in Kenya produce the majority of the food consumed in the country- 63% to be exact. However, they tend to suffer from quite low levels of income and tend to only sell small portions of their production. In fact, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) states that sales revenue for Kenyan smallholder farmers amounts to only $404 annually. One Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) startup, Stekar Foods, is seeking to connect these farmers to new markets through exporting.
Karen Ndulu formed Stekar Foods in 2017 and began operations the following year. The enterprise specializes in growing, processing, packaging, and exporting fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs. Their main products are mangos, peas, avocados, passion fruit, tea, and French beans. At the moment, the UK and the UAE are their principal export destinations.
Ndulu started the company due to her upbringing in the sector. She says that she grew up in the exporting business because it is what her family did. Since she also has her own farm, it was natural for her to eventually start her own business.
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Stekar Foods empowers farmers and women
Through her enterprise, Ndulu is uplifting small-scale farmers in a variety of ways. For one, an agronomist visits their farms in order to do soil analysis and loan them seeds to use. The farmers also receive training on how not to waste water, what chemicals not to spray, and overall how to increase their productivity. As previously mentioned, Stekar Foods is also boosting their incomes by providing them with new markets.
Furthermore, the enterprise is empowering women in Kenya. As Stekar Foods is a female-owned business, Ndulu is able to set an example for other women in the agricultural chain to follow. She also has hired 50 casual employees- 45 of whom are women- in addition to a permanent secretary and an accountant. In fact, Ndulu states that “the most successful companies in this industry are run by women.”
Stekar Foods joins incubation program Kenya Climate Innovation Center
Stekar Foods became an incubation client of KCIC at the end of 2018. Since then, the company has already benefited from participation in the mentorship program as well as access to information about grants. They are looking forward to continued support in developing a marketing strategy and creating a board.
As for their visions for the future, they recognize that Russia and China are the next biggest markets that they would like to tap into. Furthermore, they would like to obtain a Fair Trade certificate in order to access lucrative EU markets as well as continue promoting sustainable agricultural practices.
Although farmers form the backbone of the Kenyan economy, all too often they suffer from low incomes and reduced access to markets. Companies such as Stekar Foods can help turn the tide to empower smallholder farmers and thus make a difference in the country.
By: Alise Brillault