|Vanilla Flavoured Ice and Vanilla Plant|
A locally incorporated enterprise is working on a tentative programme to introduce the highly valued Vanilla as a new cash crop for commercial farming and production in the suburb and rural areas around Kenya’s Lake Victoria region.
Mabwa Enterprise Ltd., a private company headed by former Kenyan career diplomat Dr. Kipkorir Rana is working in collaboration with other agricultural service providers on an ambitious programme in the interior part of the country around Lake Victoria. The company is also collaborating with Maseno University to provide train farmers as well as carry out research and analysis for the commercial growing and production of high quality products. Mabwa Enterprise Ltd will provide agro-business service such as inputs, seedlings, professional and monitoring services as well as marketing.
The project aims at wealth creation through enterprise development, and employment opportunities for jobless youth in both the suburban and rural areas of Lake Victoria region around the Kisumu City.It targets 355 small scale farmers and 23 industrialists to build the foundation of an enterprising Vanilla industry in the lake region.
Vanilla is a high value crop that has to be introduced under highly skilled labour and management. The crop from the family of orchids(classified as Vanilla plantolia) was first cultivated by Totonic people who inhabit the Mazantla Valley on the Gulf Coast of Mexico in the present day state of Veracruz. Vanilla Beans are the second most expensive spice in the world market after Saffron.
Vanilla can be a major cash crop in the Coastal and Lake Victoria regions of Kenya and the entire Eastern African region, surpassing the economic and commercial value of other crps such as tea, coffee and cut-flowers in foreign exchange earnings.
Vanilla grows as a vine and climbs on existing trees. Left alone, it can grow as high as possible. On the farm, workers periodically fold the high parts of the plant downwards to make it accessible. The downward growth of the plant also greatly stimulates flowering.
For nearly 300 years, Mexico held a virtual monopoly over the production and sale of the crop because its flowers can only be naturally pollinated by a specific Melipone bee species found only in Mexico.
But in 1819, French entrepreneurs shipped the first Vanilla seedlings to the Indian Ocean islands of Reunion and Mauritius. And with the discovery of a simple and efficient artificial pollination method by a 12 year old African slave named Edmond Albius from Reunion Island, the prospects for commercial production of Vanilla become a reality in tropical Africa.
This method is knowledge based and labuor intensive. By the year 1998, Madagascar, Reunion and the Comoros Islands produced 80 per cent of the world’s total production of estimated at 200 metric tons.
The main use for Vanilla and its by-products is for flavouring food, drinks, soaps, ointment, perfumes, and incenses. This, according to an expert, is done by adding Vanilla extract or cured Vanilla pods. In the liquid preparation, natural Vanilla gives brown or yellow colours to preparation, depending on the concentration.
Vanilla is also used extensively in baking and dairy products such as milk yoghurts, ice creams, deserts, chocolate, cookies, pancake and soft cheeses. Vanilla flavored also available in liquors and beverages.
Vanilla is grown commercially in many tropical regions of the world for domestic consumption and exports.
In 2006, Madagascar produced 6,200 metric tons of Vanilla, which was an average of 59 percent of the globe production. Other top producers are Indonesia (2399 tons), The People’s Republic of China (1,000 tons), Mexico (306 tons), Uganda (195 tons), Kenya and other producers only produced 8 tons of cured Vanilla during he same period.
The production of this highly valued cash crop has never satisfied the world increasing demand. But with increased Chinese and Indian middle class consumers, the world is likely to see steadily rising prices.
Presently, though Vanilla prices are on the lower side. A kilo of green Vanilla is fetching USD 57 while that which is cured is priced between USD 25 and UASD 250 based on quality .As prized commodity that is also affected by the vagaries of weather. The crop has its boom and in 2003 prices had shot up reaching the peak of USD 550 per a kilo.
As an environmentally friendly, the Vanilla project in Kisumu and its environs is a private sector initiative, therefore its introduction in the lake region as a cash crop is expected to have a profound and positive economic impact on the region that for many years had relied on sugar cane farming and fishing as its economic mainstay.
The Vanilla vine takes three years before producing green beans or pods. That initial production during the third year is only 50 percent level at one kilo per vine. From the fourth year, the vine produces about 2 kilos of green Vanilla ever year and thereafter.
Consequently for this important project to succeed there is a need to provide a financial package to local farmers that can cater for financial costs in addition to operational costs during the first three years of a possible seven year loan.
Experts projections is that for a farmer to plant an acre of Vanilla, such a farmer would need approximately Kshs 700,000 and an additional Kshs 350 million as maintenance and operational cost during the second and third year, the amount which will be beneficial to the financing partners in the long run gaining valuable incomes.
Each Vanilla farmer, according to the project’s study is expected to clear the loan repayment in full amount of loan taken plus interests and other financial charges totaling Kshs 44,423. A three years starter’s loan for each curer and industrialist of Vanilla will need a financial backing of Kshs 7 million that will realize a Kshs 1.9 million in accrued interests.
The financial costs are calculated at 14 percent per annum. The prices of green Vanilla could fluctuate at time, but expected not to fall below Kshs 300 per kilo. As that of cured at USD 50 per kilogram depending on the exchange rates of the dollar.
The financial partners will earn Kshs 157.9 million from the expected farm loans and Kshs 45,086,046 from the curing factories and more from trade financing.
As a community service project, and to ensure the success of the project the promoting excellence in production, the Mabwa Enterprise Limited has requested its financial partners to provide Maseno University with a grant of Kshs 10.8 million in financing the project. Such collaboration in the community between farmers and entrepreneurs, the financing institute, and Maseno University is expected to create and the most lucrative industry in Kisumu City and its environs that at the end of ten years will generate income of Kshs 689,217,235 for the 355 collaborating farmers and an estimated average of Kshs 747,500,000 for the 23 curers-industrialists.
The grant aid of Kshs 10.8 for Maseno University is expected to be utilized towards the development of an approximately 10 acres of Vanilla plantation with 8,000 vanilla vines and 10,000 atrophic plants with equal number of banana and other crops will initiate university a community outreach program that will promote real, lasting development. The funds will also assist the university in capacity building, creating a prototype curing factory, and laboratory facilities.
Sea side beach land and low altitude lake region are the ideal situation for vanilla plantations to flourish as they do in Madagascar, Comoros and in the Mukono area of Uganda.
The most suitable climate for vanilla is hot and humid weather with the soil slightly sandy with clay and river silts. Organic farming methods that are combined with high quality production and supervision carried out by trained farmers can sustain this new industry in Kenya.
Like most commercially successful agricultural crops such as sugar, coffee and tea, the vanilla crop takes approximately 2 to 3 years to produce its first substantial crop. Thereafter a vanilla plant produces approximately 2 kilos of green vanilla every six months. And in order to sustain the venture to its frustration, the farmers and entrepreneurs will require development finance and soft loans.
Farmers in the region have welcomed the new venture with enthusiasm as its plantation will extend into several districts around the Lake Victoria from Busia and Bungoma in Western Province to all the districts surroundings the lake in Nyanza Province.