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A Small Business Joining Hands with Smallholder Farmers on Kenya’s Restoration Journey

Charcoal production, the excessive use of fertilizer, gully erosion, mining, and land degradation all present a serious threat to Kenya’s economy and environment. As a result of these challenges, the country has seen agricultural output reduce, droughts increase and greater levels of climate vulnerability.

12.3% of the country’s land suffers from severe degradation, 52% from moderate degradation and 33% is vulnerable to land degradation, according to a recent study on the Economics of Land Degradation and Improvement in Kenya. 

To combat these effects, Afrex Gold is partnering with communities in Kenya to protect the land and empower farmers to practice landscape restoration. 

Afrex Gold is a Kenyan company founded in 2000 that specializes in agribusiness, especially avocado sourcing and processing, as well as fresh fruit and vegetable transport and export. The company initially focused on horticulture, but turned their focus to restoration work five years ago to revitalize the land on which they farm. In 2022, Afrex Gold enrolled in the Land Accelerator program- a program that equips entrepreneurs with knowledge and skills to tackle the issues of land degradation by building economically-viable, sustainable businesses that safeguard our planet and provide livelihoods for millions of people. Through close collaboration with communities, Afrex Gold is demonstrating that landscape restoration is both possible and profitable.

Afrex Gold puts community development and nature at the heart of its work. The company works with 1,200 farmers, local exporters, direct buyers and wholesalers all over the world. The overarching mission of Afrex Gold is to give back to society and empower the community to care about the environment, as well as empower farmers to earn a decent income from their harvest.

Farmers are the main partners in the company’s restoration efforts. Afrex Gold trains farmers and provides the resources they need to produce high-quality avocado tree seeds and achieve higher yields. 

The production process begins on the farms. Afrex Gold provides avocado seedlings to farmers and organizes them in groups to support planting throughout the growing season.

When the seeds are ready, they sort and batch them and then quickly transport them to warehouses to reduce post-harvest losses. The highest levels of hygiene and quality are maintained throughout the process. Each step matters for both the farmers and Afrex Gold, from planting and harvesting to reaching the market.

According to Shiro Ndirangu, director at Afrex Gold, farmers are empowered and trained to help them understand how best to care for the seeds and the land.

“We train our smallholder farmers how to integrate best agriculture practices into their farming operations to ensure that the seeds thrive in the soil until harvest. We also contract and provide seedlings for them to plant and then share the profit from the harvests. To achieve this, we put them into groups as a way to help them be responsible and accountable, and foster teamwork,” says Shiro.

Afrex Gold harvests around 2,000 tonnes of avocado each season. To date, the company has worked with 1,200 farmers. In total, 20,000 seedlings have been distributed and 16,000 of these grew into trees, which equates to 250 hectares of land restored. 

Through the partnership with TerraFund for AFR100, an initiative of World Resources Institute, One Tree Planted, and Realize Impact that finances Africa's top restoration enterprises and projects, the company will onboard an extra 250 farmers. The partnership supports Afrex Gold to provide technical support to its farmers to increase avocado production and grow additional trees.

In line with Afrex Gold’s goal of empowering women, male farmers are incentivized to encourage and involve women in their groups rather than leaving them behind to do household chores. As a result, 70% of the company’s partner farmers are now women.

“When a woman joins one of the groups, we give that group a seedling. We use this approach to motivate women to venture into income-generating activities, but also to boost gender equality on the farms,” Shiro adds. 

Afrex Gold is looking to triple the number of seedlings it distributes. The company has a target of providing at least 80,000 more seedlings to farmer groups. 40,000 will be avocado seedlings and the rest will be exotic tree seedlings that work in sustainable agroforestry systems. With this approach, more land will be regenerated, more communities supported and more livelihoods transformed. 

The company plans to expand its work to more communities across Kenya. To achieve this goal, Afrex Gold is looking for new partnerships in the restoration ecosystem and to further raise awareness in the community about the importance and benefits of forest and landscape restoration. 

By growing and planting high0quality avocado seedlings and training farmers on best practice farming techniques, the work of Afrex Gold is contributing to landscape restoration. This approach ensures the protection of land and educates the community on how to value land and restore it.

Being among the TerraFund for AFR100 projects will enable Afrex Gold to scale up its work, reach more farmers and restore more land. Their impact to date demonstrates the power of community engagement in successful restoration efforts and the importance of not only planting trees, but growing and maintaining them as well.