Friday, January 22, 2010

A partnership to help East African fruit farmers

A new partnership between Coca-Cola, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and NGO Technoserve hopes to create a bigger market for small fruit farmers in Eastern Africa. Farmers will be given tools and expertise from Technoserve to increase their yields, while the harvest of fruit will go to Coca-Cola fruit drinks sold in the region.

From the Guardian's Katine project, reporter Liz Ford describes the partnership further.

It is hoped the $11.5m partnership, announced this week, will enable more than 50,000 small fruit farmers in eastern Uganda and the Mount Kenya and Rift Valley regions of Kenya to increase their productivity and double their incomes by 2014, mainly through the sale of their fruit to use in Coca-Cola's locally produced and sold fruit juices.

The partnership will particularly target mango and passion fruit farmers, who will be offered advice on implementing quality control standards, developing good practices that will boost productivity and linking to markets.

The announcement comes as Ugandan government representatives meet this week in Soroti, the district in which Katine is located, to talk about the possibility of establishing a fruit processing plant in the Teso region of the country.

The Ugandan government is keen to increase the value of its fruit as a way of meeting its Prosperity for All targets. Fruit exports have increased steadily over recent years - in 2007, the value of exports hit more than $1m. But, as the fruit is exported fresh, the country is missing out on the full potential of its produce through processing dried fruits, fruit juices or canned fruits. At present, Uganda's processing is limited to fruit juice extraction, the produce of which is sold locally.

Some UShs 5bn has been allocated by the government for a fruit processing factory in the Teso region of Uganda, one of the poorest in the country. An estimated 1.5 million citrus trees are planted in the region and by 2011 this number is expected to rise to about 5 million. However, a private backer is being sought for the factory, and there is confusion over the timescale of the project and who will run the operation. Locals hope this week's meeting will help clarify some of these points.

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