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

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deali
X
July 07, 2015 12:02 PM
If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs