In 2008, only 4% of Kenya’s agricultural production was exported and major national hotels and restaurants were unwilling to purchase from local farmers, due to the lack of certified product. The Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture decided this needed to change and laid out a 5-year plan to increase local fruit and vegetable exports.

Within the Ministry, the Horticultural Crops Development Agency (HCDA) was tasked with implementing this 5-year plan, including the implementation of an appropriate certification scheme. The HCDA chose GLOBALG.A.P. for several reasons:

  1. GLOBALG.A.P. is internationally recognized and globally accepted.
  2. GLOBALG.A.P. offers three standards allowing farmers to start within their means and over a period of time complete IFA V4 Certification.
  3. GLOBALG.A.P. Certification can open previously closed domestic markets and increase foreign demand for products.
  4. Africa has certification bodies able to audit farms against the GLOBALG.A.P. Standard.

The HCDA was also pleased with GLOBALG.A.P.’s ability to offer the farm assurer program, providing customized training for their officers designing the QMS (Quality Management System) and serving as internal auditors. The officers appreciated having someone knowledgeable about the standard to walk them through the process, answer questions, and provide training resources that they would then use to train their own growers. Farm Fresh Assurance, Inc., a registered farm assurer, provided the HCDA with a seven-day customized training program in the United States.

“When I learned that the average farm in Kenya was less than three acres, they rely primarily on livestock for fertilizer, and that pesticides are applied by someone wearing a backpack, I realized that this engagement would present some interesting challenges, not the least of which would be keeping them from getting discouraged. Kenyan agricultural practices are at least 100 years behind ours,” says Steve Jack, President of Farm Fresh Assurance.

In addition to GLOBALG.A.P. training, the training proposal included classroom instruction on the HACCP method, an exercise on conducting the four different risk assessments required by GLOBALG.A.P., and writing policies and procedures. 

To supplement the classroom training, the officers also toured GLOBALG.A.P.-certified farms and met with experts in various fields related to food safety. James Thomas, former Water Quality Director for the Yakima Indian Reservation, discussed water as a source of product contamination and water management practices for micro-farms, and two auditors from the Washington Department of Agriculture presented a government perspective of the application of food safety standards to the Kenyans.

Another challenge facing the HCDA was implementing GLOBALG.A.P. in a developing country with limited infrastructure. Modern fertilizer and chemical application equipment is almost nonexistent. Nevertheless, knowledge of chemical management systems, including inventory control, was an important part of the training. Ted Freeman, manager of the CHS chemical plant in Royal City, WA, provided a tour of his facilities and explained how spray recommendations were checked and verified before each application. He also described the record-keeping for each step in the process, including calibration records for the sprayers.

“Your training style is unique,” said Grace Mbuthia, one of two officers with the HCDA. “We are used to sitting in a classroom all day, but you have combined the classroom with visits to GLOBALG.A.P.-certified farms and other places where we could see the implementation with our own eyes. The GLOBALG.A.P. farmers have been very enthusiastic.”

A great deal of training time was devoted to adapting the standards to Kenyan cultural practices without compromising food safety. As they began to understand the possibilities that GLOBALG.A.P. Certification offered, the Kenyans wondered how they might convince their farmers that adopting GLOBALG.A.P. would open new markets for their crops. 

Some of the answers came during a visit to TrueLeaf Farms near Salinas, California. The Director of Food Safety was an immigrant from Nigeria who had arrived in the USA in 1994, after earning a degree in agriculture with an emphasis in product management systems. One of his accomplishments was serving on the committee that developed the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement.

With his expertise in food safety and first-hand knowledge of African agriculture, he was able to give the Kenyan representatives several suggestions for organizing their farmers into more efficient production units. After nearly two hours of brainstorming and asking questions, the Kenyans ended their Salinas tour energized with ideas that would help them with implementation.

There are still many questions that have to be addressed, of course. One of them is how to implement record-keeping among farmers with little formal education. Another is how to finance the capital outlays that individual compliance may require. One thing is certain, however: these two HCDA officers returned home determined to find the answers.