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

    Beijing Warns Critics Over South China Sea Dispute

    Official warns critics that the more they challenge China's position regarding disputed territories in one of world’s busiest waterways, the more it will push back

    Will New Russian Force Be 'Putin’s Personal Army'?

    With broad powers to control riots, suppress dissent, National Guard may be aimed at sending a message to West as much as keeping peace at home

    Foreign Media in Pyongyang Barred From North Korean Party Congress

    Hundreds of international journalists invited to cover historic party meeting barred from entering actual event

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020i
    X
    Ramon Taylor
    May 05, 2016 10:05 PM
    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020

    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Child Labor in Afghanistan Remains a Problem

    With war still raging in Afghanistan, the country also faces the problem of child labor as families put their school-age children to work to help make ends meet. But, thanks to VOA's Afghan Service, two families whose children had been working in a brick-making factory - to earn their livings and pay off family debts - now have a new lease on life. Zabihullah Ghazi reports.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora