For a while, the coconut sub-sector has shown immense potential to drive economic development in Kenya; coconut is the main cash crop in the Coastal belt. Kenyan Coconut sub-sector is estimated at Sh13 billion with numerous products that trend globally. These products continue to be in demand for food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, industrial oils, and other emerging products and by-products lines. This makes coconuts be regarded as the tree of life due to its wide range of products for international and domestic markets.
Despite coconut oil being among the main exported commodity in Kilifi county, the verge of the valued cash crop dying can be a reality if the challenges faced are not promptly addressed. Most young people don’t want to cultivate coconuts because they take much time to mature and most land around Kilifi is communal.
There has also been a significant reduction in coconuts within the county. This has been attributed to drought and the felling down of productive coconut trees for timber. To end this trend, policies are already being formulated to declare the plant a protected crop and that cutting down of the coconut trees will attract a stiff penalty.
Among the major constraints being faced by the coconut oil producers in Kilifi include:
- Poor agricultural practices
- Lack of high yielding quality planting material
- Lack of technical know-how
- Poor market
- Drought as a result of climate change
In order to mitigate these problems, the National and County Government of Kilifi is coming up with appropriate programmes that will ensure supply of up to one million quality planting materials per year to farmers at subsidized rates.
Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) recently launched the Kilifi Business Incubation hub which is set to boost agripreneurs in the region. The hub which is under the Agribiz programme will counter the challenges that have been facing the coconut farmers in the region.
Patrick Kithi Sofa, the founder of Pepa Coconut oil and an Agribiz beneficiary from Kilifi BIH, expressed his expectations from the BIH. “We are hopeful that this BIH will solve our long-term problem of finding market for our products,” he said. Pepa Coconut produces coconut oil for sale. KCIC in partnership with the European Union (EU), Ministry of foreign affairs in Denmark (Danida), seeks to support 2,400 women and youth-led agribusiness enterprises across the country and lead to the creation of 17,000 job opportunities.
KCIC and Kilifi County Government, will also use the business hub to offer comprehensive training and mentorship programs for farmers in the entire region to increase productivity of coconuts and other farm products.
“Another challenge that we have faced as coconut farmers is the issue of having authentication from KEBS. We are grateful to KCIC because we are now certified by KEBS and we can sell our products without any hitches,” said Kithi. The business hub will offer incubation services and also assist the agripreneurs with access to initial funding through grants and loans to help them propel their businesses.