KENYA – Rockefeller Foundation has released a grant of US$6 million to go towards value addition initiatives in mango farming in Kenya through its YieldWise Food Loss initiative.

Betty Kibaara, the Director in charge of Food Initiative at the Rockefeller foundation says the funding aims at helping reduce post-harvest losses of mangoes that currently stands at 90%.

The shelf life of mangoes is short (2 to three weeks) and majority of rural farmers lack cold storage facilities and with the fruits ripening at the same time of year, so many farmers sell all their mangoes at market at throw away prices with many unsold mangoes left to rot.

Kitui County, located in eastern Kenya, is regarded as the country’s ‘mango county’ and is more densely populated with mango trees than anywhere else in the country. In some regions, mangoes contribute 40% of the household income.

The funding will also be used in linking farmers to buyers as well as initiate value addition schemes like coming up with a mango juice plant.

Farmers have also been encouraged to join cooperatives to enjoy economies of scale in purchasing equipment or negotiate for better prices for their produce.

With self-imposed ban on mango exports still effective, Kenyan mango farmers are being encouraged to consider investing more in the local markets.

Despite the ban, however, Rockefeller Foundation says some Kenyan farmers are still accessing the Middle East market with local produce facing stiff competition from Egyptian mangoes.

Kenya imposed a ban on mango exports in 2014 after it was blacklisted by the EU due to concerns that Kenyan produce were infested with fruit flies.

“Every year, farmers incur losses to the tune of Sh30 billion due to fruit fly infestation. About 40 to 80 per cent of the yield is lost due to the pest,” said Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service managing director Esther Kimani.

The YieldWise Food Loss initiative also aims to reduce food loss in Maize in Tanzania and Cassava and Tomato value chains to improve livelihoods of the small holder farmers.