As you all know, i am a farm girl at heart which means that I can spend the whole day in one and not get bored. Which is why when I got the opportunity to visit Kakuzi PLC I was elated because it is simply an amazing place for someone who loves and enjoys being in the farm and everything agribusiness. So here are some titbits from the farm visit.
When we got to Kakuzi, our first stop was the Avocado farm where we got to see the pack house and all the food handing stations. For someone who loves everything avocadoes, this felt like a small heaven, as I had never seen these many avocados all in one place at ago. Kakuzi prides itself as a location which provides a temperate climate that is perfectly suited to the production of avocado. From seedling to fork, they have full control over the entire value chain ensuring complete traceability and a high-quality product.
Kakuzi is also part of community social investment (CSI) in avocado farming which offers support to smallholder farmers. They do this by offering services such as free fruit maturity testing, buying from smallholder farmers and investing in the up scaling of its smallholder operations value to complement its production capacities and boost the global positioning of Kenyan avocados. This is crucial as Kenyan avocados had been banned from export by the horticulture regulator in November 2020 over harvesting of immature fruits by farmers. Kakuzi does this by hosting an Avocados Farmers’ Day annually.
Kakuzi’s second largest product is Macadamia which is grown on about 1030 hectares for the export market. They are among the pioneers to have macadamia production in large scale. They have two harvest seasons, the Mar-Apr-May and the Sep-Oct phase. Here they also offer knowledge to interested small holder farmers.
The organization has also invested in the livestock industry. They dominantly have a beef herd size 4500 of the Boran breed. They are an active member of the Boran Society of Kenya. They however have two small ranch dairies that supply their staff with milk together with the locals. The Kakuzi slaughterhouse produces 16 carcasses a day that they supply to Murang’a and Nairobi. They are also Halal certified.
Kakuzi seems to have a thing for taking risks and venturing in the unlikely productions. This is seen in the Blueberries farm. Kakuzi is in the frontline among other few producers who are venturing in the blueberries production. They have dedicated 10 hectares for the testing of the crop which they started in 2019 though it is steadily taking shape. They mainly supply the export market that consists of Western Europe and the Middle East, the local market also consumes 20%-30% of the harvest. This is a promising venture and they are looking forward to this year’s produce.
One thing i liked about them was that they provide housing for their employees on the farm. I managed to get to see one of the employee housing set up and it looked well thought out. The houses can accommodate a family of 4, has kitchen garden, and neat hedges. The organization provides a caretaker and grounds man who care for and tenders the hedges and keeps the compound clean while are the farm. The settlement within the farm has 968 houses. They farm have community health workers who perform house visits to offer education on nutrition and the wellbeing of the staff.
In a big setup like Kakuzi there will definitely be a few issues arising. Through its Kent- based parent Camellia PLC, Kakuzi was sued over the alleged human rights violations by its employees. The allegations, dating from 2009 to January 2020, include rapes, attacks on local villagers, and a man being beaten to death, Law firm Leigh Day said. Kakuzi was hit when Tesco stopped buying Kakuzi produce due to these claims. Despite Camellia parting with KES 1.1 billion settlement in legal fees payments to the victims in Kenya and Malawi, Tesco is yet to lift the ban on Kakuzi products.
As a result of this, Kakuzi has employed a manager in charge of human rights issues, they have also conducted an audit by a global firm on the impact of its operations on human rights. Additionally, they have established a dedicated operational-level grievance reporting mechanism that should provide multiple avenues through which employees and the community can raise issues they would like the company to address through Sexual Harassment Reporting and Prevention Program (SHARP). Former Attorney-General Githu Muigai has been appointed to chair the company’s newly created Independent Human Rights Advisory Committee (IHRAC) that will provide technical advice to the board of directors.
The organization in its effort has undertaken governance reforms with an aim of ensuring better handling of potential future abuses. It has put up other measures such as funding of charcoal kilns and access to firewood, built two social centers for community meetings. They have also employed predominantly female safety Marshalls in the farm’s access routes “to give visible reassurance to those using access routes and particularly women”.
Dr. Wilson Odiyo who is Kakuzi’s Assistant General Manager Corporate affairs, indicated that Kakuzi has built new roads to give community residents better access to local amenities and hired some as Marshalls. “We are doing what we have to do ensure that where there are human rights issues, they are addressed,” He added.
Camellia and its local subsidiary (Kakuzi PLC) are trying to win back the confidence of customers in Europe who value ethical corporate behavior as much as the quality of produce.