Just months after receiving a major financing boost from the IFC, Twiga Foods has again signed an agreement with the World Bank Group member to boost the company’s food safety practices.
Twiga Foods, a Kenyan-based technology food distribution platform, is improving its food safety practices in line with global standards. It also seeks to ensure the traceability of produce from the farm to consumers.
The introduction will also help with food safety and quality management in Kenya while creating food quality assurance jobs in Kenya.
The initiative marks a rare move to apply global quality certification to food products destined for the domestic, rather than the export market. Kenya fruits and vegetables exporters focus on markets outside the country especially the EU and now others are seeking how to import from China to Kenya especially for equipment to help with processing their produce.
Twiga Foods uses mobile phone technology to connect smallholder farmers in rural areas to informal retail vendors in cities.
Coaching farmers on internationally-accepted practices
Under the new agreement, IFC will advise the company on food safety and quality management systems in its produce handling facilities.
Twiga’s staff will also be trained on internationally-accepted practices.
The agreement adds to a USD10 million investment in Twiga Foods, made in November 2018, led by IFC, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) and TLcom- a Pan-African venture capital firm to expand operations and offer new services.
Jumoke Jagun-Dokunmu, IFC Regional Director for Eastern Africa said, “IFC’s investment in Twiga Foods will improve food safety standards while ensuring fair prices and transparent sourcing from smallholder farmers.”
“We commend Twiga on their commitment to global best practices that will give Kenyan consumers of all income levels access to quality food products,” she added.
Twiga Foods will work with IFC to coach farmers on agricultural best practices and ensure that products are fully traceable.
The project will initially work with 30 pilot farms across 20 counties to achieve GLOBAL G.A.P. certification, the worldwide standard for safe and sustainable agriculture, by end of next year.
IFC will also support Twiga on agronomic practices to improve productivity, irrigation, soil health and better access to finance for Twiga’s growers.
Twiga Foods’ CEO, Peter Njonjo said food safety is an important consideration in their mission to provide affordable, quality, and safe food to Kenya’s urban consumers, and reliable markets for farmers.
“This is the reason we are constantly reviewing our operating procedures, making strategic investments and striking strategic partnerships with institutions such as IFC to deliver and surpass global standards,” he added.
Product traceability and GLOBAL G.A.P. compliance
By March 2021, Twiga hopes to have attained 100 per cent product traceability and GLOBAL G.A.P. compliance from its contracted suppliers.
Twiga Foods is the largest domestic distributor of food produce in Kenya, handling an average of 130 tons of produce daily.
The produce is sourced from 13,000 farmers, aggregated from Twiga’s collection points across 20 counties and is distributed to 10,000 vendors in Nairobi and neighbouring counties.
IFC’s advisory team works with over 100 agribusiness clients worldwide, including on energy efficiency, sustainability and resource usage.
As of June 2018, IFC’s investment portfolio in agribusiness was valued at USD1.2 billion globally.
How the Twiga Foods platform works
The Twiga Foods platform uses mobile phone technology to match supply and demand. It aggregates market participants and finds buyers for farmers’ produce in Africa’s large, but highly fragmented fruit and vegetable market.
Its m-commerce platform enables vendors to order fresh produce, as and when needed, from farmers across Kenya. Similar platforms have also been in use by vegetable exporters in Kenya but in a different way.
The system is a win for both farmers and vendors.
Farmers have guaranteed access to a fairly priced, transparent, mobile marketplace while vendors can consistently source high-quality produce, which is conveniently delivered for free to their doorstep by Twiga.
By increasing efficiency in the supply chain, Twiga is able to reduce waste and ultimately reduce food prices for end consumers.
Since its launch in 2014, Twiga has grown to work with over 13,000 farmers and 6,000 vendors in Kenya.
The company initially started off matching vendors to banana farmers, but now works with other produce such as tomatoes, cabbage, mango, potato and onion.
Farmers who sign up with Twiga receive their payment within 24 hours.
The company operates collection centres across the country, in addition to a central pack house with cold storage facilities, and mobilized trucks and vans for swift collection and distribution of produce.
The smooth logistics system limits Twiga’s post-harvest losses to five per cent, as compared to 30 per cent at informal markets, where farmers typically sell produce.
Kenya’s smallholder farmers against large-scale farmers
Greenpeace Africa has been in the forefront pushing for smallholder farmers’ rights in Kenya where they seem to be losing out to commercial farmers.
In May, Greenpeace Africa said the government of Kenya has come up with radical plans to revive its agriculture sector, including a possible shift to genetically modified organisms technology.
The plan seeks to establish 50 new large-scale farms of 2,500 acres or more, in a plan aimed at unlocking up to 500,000 acres of new farm production.
Responding to this new development, Greenpeace Africa’s Senior Food Campaign Manager Renee Olende said, “This plan seeks to put power in the hands of a few corporates in the private sector and impoverish the very person that feeds the nation – the smallholder farmer.”
She added that the most urgent measure the government needs to take is to ensure that the country is food secure by leveraging Kenya agriculture potential, which calls for measures that are fundamentally home-grown, scalable and practical.
“Food security can only be achieved when smallholder farmers are a top priority in the government’s plan and citizens’ food sovereignty is safeguarded,” she said.
Olende said that the government’s proposed approach favours a limited pool of privately run projects thus these investments must be channelled at the community level.
Olende said, “Kenya’s government must ensure that the agriculture sector is self-reliant by supporting sustainable practices that allow for climate change adaptation measures and efficient post-harvesting handling.”
The statement added: “Smallholder farmers are key to the success of the agriculture sector and the upscaling of climate change adaptation measures through ecological agriculture approaches. With the right support, these farmers, who contribute 75 per cent of total agricultural production, can feed Kenyans with healthy and nutritious food that is grown sustainably.”