Chamomile, hibiscus, tropical fruit, tomatoes and chili are the products the farmers from Tharaka-Nithi deliver to the Meru Herbs co-operative; after turning them into herbal teas, jams and sauces, the co-operative exports them to Italy through fair trade, to improve the living conditions of women and young people of the agri-food production chains linked to the Co-operative.
Project objectives: to increase agricultural production and to improve the efficiency of the Meru Herbs co-operative and make it economically self-sustainable in order to improve the living conditions of women and young people in the County’s rural areas.
500 farming families involved
50% increase in the production of jams and teas
1 tourist facility to be launched
We live in a dry county at the foot of Mount Kenya: thanks to intense water supply operations supported by international co-operation, our land has become more productive. So not only do we have enough to feed ourselves, but we have also started to earn some money by selling the surplus at markets and to the Meru Herbs co-operative. In this structure, our fruit and vegetables are turned into jams, sauces and herbal teas that are then exported through fair trade to East Africa, Italy, Japan, and China.
Unfortunately an unreliable power supply jeopardizes the work of the Co-operative’s Processing Centre the resulting decrease in production inevitably translates into a drop in sales. This in turn makes things difficult and leads to delays in payments to the rural families that provide the raw materials, with all the ensuing difficulties. For this reason many of them have left us. But without them the Co-operative will inevitably close and the only source of income for many families in the area will no longer exist.
This vicious circle can rapidly turn into a social and economic emergency; this project aims to put an end to this.
Since starting the project, we have been doing a lot: farming families have been following training sessions and practical classes on agricultural techniques and irrigation, composting and greenhouse cultivation; the staff of Meru Herbs has been taking part in training courses on product processing. Since the introduction of more modern agricultural tools, we have been visiting the farmers regularly to give them a hand.
In July we installed solar panels, so Meru Herbs has become the first and possibly the only fair-trade business in Kenya – in fact, I think in all of Africa – completely powered by renewable energy.
The system also powers the streetlights of the surrounding residential area and in the future will power the tourist lodge we are planning. We are in fact close to Meru Park, an area of verdant forest and vast grasslands inhabited by a great variety of animals: focussing on eco-tourism, which is becoming increasingly popular here in Kenya, for us means increased earnings that can be re-invested in the co-operative’s activity and giving greater visibility to Meru Herbs itself.
The project aims to promote the development of the living conditions of women and young people in rural areas of the County of Tharaka-Nithi, by helping to support and improve the activities of the Meru Herbs Agricultural cooperative they work for and making them self-sustainable by:
Beneficiaries: 500 rural families involved in Meru Herbs’ production and processing.
Indirect beneficiaries: 5,000 local families benefitting from the irrigation, lighting and tourism services linked to the Cooperative.
Enhancement of agri-food supply chains and development of renewable energy sources in the county of Tharaka Nithi
Lara Viganò, [email protected]
April 2015 – April 2018
IPSIA, Meru Herbs
Other entities involved
Diocese of Meru, Ng’uuru Gakirwe Water Project Trust (NGWP Trust)