Climate-Smart Tech Improving Livelihoods of Kenyan Women Farmers

Equator Kenya, a food-processing company that produces African Bird’s Eye Chilies for export, has joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA) with a commitment to provide climate-smart technologies, training and market linkages to 8,000 smallholder farmers along the Kenyan coast.

This business is designed to reduce the crop risks posed by climate change, which will help increase incomes among the farmers — 6,000 of whom are women — as well as improve crop yields and quality.

At the core of the initiative is a low-cost water-efficient drip irrigation kit: Equator offers farmers the opportunity to purchase the kits on credit at subsidized prices. Since 2014, more than 1,500 farmers have acquired these kits, increasing production by 54 percent on average while significantly improving quality by eliminating water stress.

Drip irrigation has also allowed farmers to produce chilies for ten months of the year — compared to between four and five months previously — creating year-round income.

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Equator says it aims to distribute an additional 8,000 kits, coupled with environmentally sustainable blended fertilizers and bio-pesticides, by the end of 2020. It will also provide marketing and sales training to more than 100 women entrepreneurs, and create ten new full-time jobs – also for women – in the company’s water filter production facility.

African Bird’s Eye Chilies, also known as Piri Piri, are Equator’s principle crop. This variety of chilies is highly valued in the high-end retail markets of Europe, Japan and the United States, the company says.

Equator has a network of 7,000 active smallholder farmers working in some of Kenya’s poorest districts. In some areas, nearly 80 percent of Equator’s farmers are women. Most have low, seasonal incomes and many are illiterate.

Equator’s farmers receive intensive training from project experts on pest management, soil fertility management, erosion control and the use of 'shading' to protect against the higher and more fluctuating temperatures caused by climate change. Higher farm profits will increase household savings, creating a cushion against economic shocks that might result from climate change. Equator projects farm yields to multiply 20 fold, increasing incomes from $21 to $430 per planting unit.

In Ghana, BCtA-affiliated technology provider Farmerline is helping to empower 500,000 small-scale farmers in West Africa to advance their livelihoods by accessing information that helps them to improve their harvests. The company also plans to provide a specialized mobile communication and data-collection platform to 5,000 development organizations and agribusinesses by 2019.

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