Agri-Africa Expo 2023: A great learning experience for Kenyans

Agri-Africa Expo and Conference 2023

A man listens to Nelson Omoto, Glory Okoth and Austin Odhiambo at the Apiculture Venture Ltd stand products during the Agri-Africa Expo and Conference 2023 on May 10. 

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

Thousands trooped to the Agri-Africa Expo and Conference 2023 at Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), Nairobi, to get new ideas on value-addition.

The expo organised by Agri-Africa Exhibitions Ltd, Nation Media Group (NMG), Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (KCIC) and other partners, attracted about 170 exhibitors.

Seeds of Gold sampled some of the innovations.

Kigali Farms

Mushroom, a fleshy spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus – whose uptake across the globe is rising – attracted many participants. It is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Many people are turning to mushrooms to keep lifestyle diseases at bay.

Kigali Farms showcased white button, tree oyster, king oyster, cremini, portobello and other mushroom varieties.

Kigali farms

The Kigali Farms stand during the Agri-Africa Expo and Conference 2023 at the KICC in Nairobi on May 9, 2023.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

With a distributor in Nairobi – the Great Mushrooms Company – and a warehouse at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, it supplies the produce to supermarkets, hotels and restaurants.

Jayant Arrawatia

JAS Agro official Jayant Arrawatia and Crop Development PS Phillip Harsama at the company’s stand on May 9. The Agri-Africa Expo and Conference 2023 attracted thousands of Kenyans and foreigners.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

“We produce for local consumption and export,” said Charlyn Chebet, the Kenya country manager.

Founded in 2010, Kigali Farms has trained more than 700 farmers to produce tree oyster mushrooms to end malnutrition in Rwanda.

The fungi can be dried and packaged, thus prolonging its shelf-life.

“They are also canned,” Chebet told the Seeds Of Gold.

Baringo honey

Caren Ruto, a beekeeper from Mogotio, showcased many products. Her tent had refined honey, wax and propolis.

Kenya’s annual production stands at 18,000 tonnes, down from 25,000 a decade ago.

Ruto supplies honey and other products to many counties. She has been in the business since 2005 and has 40 hives.

“I was a marketer at Kenya Times but quit. Apart from producing honey, I contract other farmers under our group,” she said.

She sells more than a tonne of honey every month. Ruto is a member of Kimose Self-Help Group.

“Candles and propolis fetch good money,” she said, adding that group members also rear dairy goats.

Cattle rustling and banditry are the main challenges Ruto faces. The recent drought hit her business hard.

Kimplanter Seedlings and Nurseries

With nursery centres in Kiambu, Murang’a and Kajiado, Kimplanter is a propagating company for vegetable, fruit, herb and tree seedlings.

Established in 2014, it uses tray seedlings in raising plantlets. Wambui Mwangi, the operations manager, said the technology guarantees more than  90 per cent germination rate.

Belarus Ambassador to Kenya Pavel Vziatkin

Belarus Ambassador to Kenya Pavel Vziatkin (left), former Kiambu Governor James Nyoro (centre) and Principal Secretary at State Department for Crop Development Philip Harsama visiting the Belarus Embassy Stand during the 2023 Agri-Africa Expo and Conference at KICC in Nairobi on May 9, 2023.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

“Most farmers are struggling to raise seedlings traditionally. With the tray seedlings technology, pests and diseases are easily managed,” she said.

The seedlings mature in three weeks and are of good quality. Kimplanter Seedlings uses the 200 and 442-hole trays.

Planting media is coco peat instead of soil. Kimplanter Seedlings works with a network of 1, 000 farmers.

Prices range from Sh2 and Sh20, she said.

Camel milk yoghurt

Tawakal Farmers Marketing Cooperative Society, Isiolo, was formed by women. The booth had a variety of products.

Camel milk products attracted hundreds of people to the stand.

Leyla Adan, a member of the group, said Tawakal works with 150 camel farmers who deliver milk. The co-op makes strawberry, vanilla, mango, chocolate and apple yoghurt.

“We began by selling raw and pasteurised milk,” she said.

Egerton University helped the women explore camel milk yoghurt, cheese, butter, ghee and fermented milk.

Where a litre of camel’s raw milk retails at Sh150 that of yoghurt goes for as high as Sh240.

Beetroot jam

Eco Sprew Kenya Ltd had beetroot jam. The jam is processed with strawberry, pineapple and banana.

Company owner, Shem Mecheo, said farmers who supply beetroot see the value of their sweat.

“When value is added to beetroot, the product fetches a good price,” Mecheo said, adding that Eco Sprew began as a consulting firm but now has a processor in Ongata Rongai, Kajiado County.

Mecheo has contracted 278 farmers in Nyandarua County. A 400g pack of jam goes for Sh250.

The theme of the four-day expo was:  “Using Information to Power Agriculture in Africa”.

Agri-Africa Exhibitions Ltd Chief Executive, Tito Mutai, blamed the minimal growth of agriculture on scattered information.

“There is need for farmers to be provided a platform to gather and collect information,” he said.

The company identifies opportunities and disseminates to farmers.

“We are committed to providing a central database solution for agriculture. Farmers should have easy access to information through these types of shows,” Mutai said.

Nation Media Group provided visibility for the information.

“We’ll use our print, broadcast and online platforms to disseminate information that will help revamp agriculture by reaching out to farmers and other players,” NMG Commercial Manager James Sogoti said.

He added that media play a critical role in passing information and services that help the country fight calamities like drought, pests, and diseases.

Media also spur campaigns like tree planting.

“Kenya is re-engineering its farming systems and we encourage initiatives around value-addition. Like many other African countries, Kenya has huge potential in agriculture but is not tapping them due to lack of appropriate infrastructure,” Crop Development Principal Secretary Philip Harsama said.