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It’s time to harvest: growing ginger on the Kenyan coast

As a Kiva Fellow in Kenya, I have had the privilege to work with farmers from Kiva’s partner, Asante Foundation. It’s an exciting time right now, as farmers are harvesting their first ginger crop that they planted in April. One borrower I met was Juma, an experienced maize farmer and a father of three who took a risk this year to venture into ginger farming.

Juma with his ginger harvest. Juma will use the income to buy land, build a house, and send his children to school.

Juma never thought he would be a ginger farmer. “Not many people grow it,” he said. “We typically focus on maize and peas which we sell locally, but we have a difficult time growing those crops because it’s very dry on the coast.” Little did he know that there is a huge international market for ginger, especially for its use in essential oils. Cultivating specialized products like ginger and having access to global markets could increase the income of small holder farmers like Juma by 5x.
But how could Juma and other small holder farmers gain access to international markets that are typically reserved for the big dogs?
Enter Asante Foundation, a social venture firm that supports farmers through the complete farming cycle and empowers them to provide high value crops to an international market. Support takes the form of training farmers, providing access to farming inputs, financing, and processing of the crop.
Asante’s work is especially important due to the fact that farming is the dominant economic activity of the world’s poor. Specifically, in Sub-Saharan Africa, 64% of the population depends on agriculture as a source of income. Yet, in its current state, farmers in Kenya are underutilizing the land and have extremely low profits. Asante Foundation realized that in order to lift farmers out of poverty, farmers needed to increase their productivity and produce the right things at the right time for established markets.

Workers harvesting ginger. This ginger will be used to make essential oil.

With Asante Foundation’s model, Juma is sure that he has a high demand for his ginger. Once Juma harvests his crop, Asante’s partner, Fair Oils, distills the ginger into essential oil, which is then packaged and sold through the fair trade company doTERRA. Additionally, the impact of this partnership goes beyond Juma and affects his entire community. Asante Foundation, Fair Oils, and doTERRA are fully committed to ethical treatment of farmers and reinvest the premium charged on their essential oil products into Juma’s community. The community then decides how to use this investment. The most recent investment was school renovations including a new staff room, dormitory, and washrooms for the students.

The new staff dormitories that the community built using the premium from the essential oil products.

However, all of this could not be possible without Kiva lenders. With as little as $25 towards a loan, farmers like Juma are able to take calculated risks and try new profitable ventures like ginger farming. “Without Kiva, I could not have taken the risk to grow ginger. It’s just too expensive. But after this year’s harvest, it’s proven that I can make a great income from growing ginger. With the earnings, I plan to buy more land to expand my ginger farm, and I hope Kiva lenders will join me again!”
For more information about Asante Foundation please visit their website. Also come back to in April to support farmers in the next ginger planting season.

About the author

Maelen Haugen

Maelen was born and raised in the beautiful state of California. Studying International Economics at the University of California in San Diego sparked her passion for development. She still remembers the day in class when she learned about the different approaches to international development, particularly Muhammad Yunus’ pioneering work in microfinance. It quickly became clear that she wanted to be a part of it. After graduation, Maelen used her marketing chops to lead brand marketing at the largest youth development nonprofit in Silicon Valley, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula. Curiosity then struck to see how nonprofits could drive greater impact by leveraging best practices from the private sector. Eager to learn more, Maelen switched gears and moved to Cisco to manage social media advertising, product placement, and major media partnerships. She is excited to blend her nonprofit and corporate experience to support social businesses that create economic growth and fulfill human needs.