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

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

A new Iranian leader -- and a strategic shift by the United States -- opens narrow window for nuclear agreement with Tehran More

Column: Saudi-Iran Meeting Could Boost Fight Against Islamic State

The fact that Iranians and Saudis are talking again does not guarantee a breakthrough, but it could make it easier to build a broad coalition against IS More

Thai Ruler Gives Top Cabinet Posts to Junta Inner Circle

Thailand's army chief has kept an iron grip on power as he extends the government, hand-picking an interim parliament that subsequently nominated him prime minister More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid