News / Africa

Stevia: a Sweetener for Kenyan Exporters – and Farmers’ Pockets

Multimedia

Audio
Kim Lewis
A natural sweetener is providing Kenyan farmers with an opportunity to be a part of a rapidly growing supply chain that includes several other countries from around the world. 

Stevia, known worldwide as a natural sweetener, comes from plants that are grown in the tropics and subtropics.  The leaves of the popular plant are sweet and ideal for people conscious of their sugar and carbohydrate intake.  With zero calories, the plant is being recognized as a great replacement for sugar and other sweeteners.  

Ajay Chandran is Global Marketing Director of PureCircle, the world’s leading producer and marketer of stevia products.  He said Africa is a critical part of their mission to mainstream the plant as the next natural sweetener, and they are working with about fifteen hundred farmers in Kenya to grow it.  

“We work very closely with the farmers because we think it’s integral and important that they are successful as they grow this new crop. And we have in place close to 140 technicians who are actually working with the farmers very closely on a daily basis to make sure they have the right tools, have the right agronomic expertise and information to grow stevia in a successful manner,” explained Chandran.      

The company provides farmers with a contract prior to the growing period so they know the price they’ll receive for the crop at the end of the season.

“We’ve also provided close to a million dollars’ worth of micro-financing to farmers in Africa because we understand that as you start a new crop, the African farmers are looking for additional support from a financial standpoint,” said Chandran. 

They’re also getting support from a technical standpoint:  PureCircle is helping farmers to grow a sustainable business by showing them the benefits of adopting carbon and water friendly practices,  like converting bio waste to organic fertilizer.

“The other thing that we do is we teach how to reduce water consumption.  Most stevia is rain fed, so it doesn’t require any great amount of irrigation from lakes and other water outlets.  But even so as water is brought into the fields, we are able to show them how they can conserve water without really having it go into waste,” said Chandran.

Farmers are also taught to grow the crop on only a third of their land so local food security issues are not brought into question. 

Chandran explained that Kenyan farmers have responded positively to the introduction of growing the new high yielding export.  He said the guarantee of income at the end of the season allows them to continue to invest and grow the natural sweetener successfully.

“Stevia is not a crop that is grown one season and then you uproot it and plant something else the next season.  Sometimes it takes a little more dedication.  We’ve had dedicated farmers who have partnered with us [since  2008], close to 15 hundred farmers in 2012.  We expect that number to go up to close to around four thousand farmers. ” Chandran noted.

The supply chain for stevia also includes Paraguay, China and Malaysia.  Chandran says thanks to Kenya’s climate, PureCircle is looking to add more farms to grow – and export – the natural sweetener.

You May Like

AU Takes Action on Boko Haram, Defers on S. Sudan

African Union is moving forward with a request for a military force to stop the spread of Boko Haram insurgency in West Africa; Ban Ki-moon welcomes decision to form a five-nation force More

Mass Protests Held for 58 Killed in Pakistani Shi'ite Mosque Bombing

Thousands of Shi'ite Muslims took to the streets across Pakistan Saturday to protest a powerful bomb blast at a mosque in Sindh province during Friday prayers, killing dozens of people More

Williams Wins Australian Open with Straight-Set Victory over Sharapova

The win is Serena Williams' sixth in Australia, and her 19th overall Grand Slam title More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid