Organic avocados available in Europe used to be sourced almost exclusively from South America, but over the last few years that has begun to change.
Now, leading European organic and fair fruit and vegetable distributor Eosta, based in the Netherlands, is importing substantial quantities of avocados from Kenya. The fruits come from 20,000 smallholders who often have only a few trees each, but the premium price for the avocados has helped them to increase their income tenfold. Especially now, since Kenya is plagued by persistent droughts, this is bringing real benefit to many farmers.
The typical Hass avocado from Kenya is much the same as a typical South American Hass avocado. But for experts like Neville Mchina, product manager for avocados at Eosta, it’s quite easy to tell the difference. “The shape tends to be slightly rounder. This is due to climatic differences. While Mexican avocados are shaped like conference pears, the African avocado is more like an Anjou pear. But they are equally nutty, creamy, and delicious. They’re fantastic in African guacamole, which is a mix of avocado, mango, onion, and lime. Try it!”.
Starting in 2014, East Africa has been plagued by yearly droughts. Eosta’s avocados are grown in the area around Nairobi, Kenya, which is usually blessed with plenty of rainfall, but even that area is now affected by the drought. Fortunately for the local farmers, avocado trees are quite drought resistant; lack of water makes the fruits a bit smaller, but it also makes them nuttier and creamier. “It’s a well-known fact in viniculture that plants produce tastier fruits when they are put under stress,” says Mchina. “They’re higher in phytonutrients and antioxidants as well
The export of avocados is improving the lives of small-scale farmers in Kenya, Mchina explains. “Many of the growers used to grow food for themselves and for the local market. Now that they can sell some of their produce at a premium price, their income has increased tenfold. What’s even better is that they do it organically, sustainably, and some even in an agroforestry setting. You can really see the difference when you visit them. They are building better housing for themselves, setting up schools, and improving roads. They have taken charge of their new situation, and that is a great achievement.’
“Access to medical care has also improved,” Mchina adds. ‘Through our Nature & More 1 Cent for the Future campaign, we are supporting a local medical care project. It pays for trained nurses to visit the ill in remote areas who lack access to clinics. For every kilogram of avocados sold, 1 (Euro) cent goes to the project. In the course of a year, this amounts to a considerable sum – and a lot of sick people receiving help. As a consumer you can really choose the type of world you want to live in by choosing where you spend your money.”
Photo: Nature & More grower Anthony Ngugi in Kenya proudly shows his organic Hass avocados