On a mission to empower passion fruit farmers
Posted Wednesday, January 29 2014 at 02:00
Eric and Rebecca Kaduru on investing and empowering farmers in Kabarole and Kyenjojo
Seeing farmers stranded with their produce in the market and having to sell at unfavourable prices, the Kadurus made an investment to enable them have better bargaining power and better deals. They told Edgar R. Batte their story.
Eric Kaduru: I was born and raised in Kenya, but has lived in many countries including Wales (UK) and Nigeria.
I spent most of my adult life in South Africa, where I went to university.
I moved back to Uganda, my father’s home country, at the end of 2008. Before farming, I spent six years in advertising.
Rebecca Kaduru: I am from California, USA. Prior to moving to Uganda, I have lived and worked in Tanzania and Egypt. I came here to work for an NGO, met Eric and the rest is history. In early 2011, we moved to Fort Portal and began KadAfrica, which comes from our name Kaduru.
What is KadAfrica?
KadAfrica is a passion fruit farm and a network of outgrowers in western Uganda. We have nursery faculties where we cultivate hybrid passion fruit seedlings of breeds KPF-4, KPF-11, and KPF-12 from Kenya Agricultural Research Institute.
We provide outgrowers with free seedlings, basic inputs and links to a ready market.
We do bulk outgrower production with our own five-acre plantation. This keeps transport costs low and ensures our outgrowers receive fair market value for their fruit.
What we do
In May last year, we entered into a public-private partnership with Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Fort Portal for an innovative programme called Girls Agro Investment (Gain) Project.
Gain provides land through the Catholic Church in Kyenjojo to 1,500 out-of-school girls in western Uganda to start their own passion fruit farms.
Under KadAfrica, we started growing passion fruits. Prior to this, we experimented with other horticulture crops such as tomatoes and onions. We did some research in which we learnt that in Uganda you always read about traders at the market but farmers here typically get only 33-45 per cent of the wholesale price because the markets are dominated by traders. It is never farmers selling their own produce.
Passion fruit can grow all year round with proper maintenance and irrigation. A flowering cycle usually takes about three months. We are still working on getting to the perfect year-round harvest. We are learning and still make mistakes, which has affected our ability to keep a constant harvest.
For example, we have gone from harvesting over a tonne a week to a slowdown over these past three months. We had a vitamin deficiency that we have corrected, and it is beginning to pick up again. We cannot wait to be back into full-swing again. The expenditure per season really depends on how much we are harvesting because there are fluctuations in transport costs. Typically on basic operations, we spend about Shs2m a month.
How it is grown
Passion fruits grow on vines on trellises. That is why the best way to describe our farm is that it looks like a vineyard. It requires proper fertilisation, regular pruning and constant water. Passion fruit is not as simple as dropping seeds in the ground and having it spring up. This is why it has a high value.
The beauty of passion fruit is that because it grows vertical you still cultivate ground dwelling crops underneath. This makes it especially viable for smallholder farmers as they can maximise a small plot of land.
They can grow food for home consumption and passion fruit for surplus income.
We also grow chillies, red habanero and cayenne, and other vegetables, mostly for the local lodges, including yellow and orange bell pepper, lettuce, white and red onions, and French beans.
We have not fully made back our investment but we are happy because we now earn on a monthly basis. We had a profitable 2013, and are looking to fully break even by mid this year. We have grown by leaps and bounds over the past year through our partnership for the Gain project—adding 600 new out growers. We expect another 600 this year.
The beginning was really challenging. We have definitely had issues with mismanagement and theft at times. This was disheartening but has allowed us to grow as people and managers, and develop systems to ensure that operations run smoothly. When we started we had five workers. Now, there are three men that live on site and two women who work full time but do not live on the farm.
There are six part-time workers who come from 7am to 2pm. These include four women and two men. There are also four women who check in every morning to see if there is work and are paid on a daily basis.
We have a Kenyan agronomist that manages our farm in Kiburara, in Fort Portal, and Ugandan agronomist working in Kyenjojo with the Gain girls, and a third Kenyan Agronomist who oversees all of our operations in both Fort Portal and Kyenjojo.
We sell about 10 per cent of our produce within Fort Portal, 50 per cent in Kampala and 40 per cent for export.
We sell all over the place. We have two exporters that we work with. We sell our fruit to lodges such as Kyaninga and Ndali Lodge in Fort Portal as well as supermarkets in town. We have sold in the past to Sheraton Kampala Hotel, and supply various supermarkets such as Italian Supermarket in Muyenga as well as wholesalers in Nakasero Market.