Kenya now exports more avocados than South Africa combined across Africa. Coffee bushes are quickly being replaced with avocado trees in Central Kenya, where the majority of the nation’s small-scale avocado farmers are located, due to increased incomes and global demand. Theft, however, remains a concern. Farmers in the county are up at night worrying about avocado thieves because they decided to create vigilante squads to protect their crops. Central Kenyan farmer Mary Gitau strolls through her property. She feels hopeless as she searches among her avocado trees. Without the money to pay someone to keep an eye on her harvest, she patrols the land with a machete in hand, hoping to scare off scavengers armed with stolen avocados.
“My avocados have been stolen more times than I can count, but the ones I can remember, I caught some crooks just below where we are standing; this most recent incident is the fifth.” The 70-year-old woman ought to be relishing the benefits of her labour, but avocado thieves have stripped her of everything, leaving her with nothing to show for the years she and her late husband spent caring for the plants. “When we planted these trees, we felt they would benefit us in old age because no one can now employ someone like me, but I have not benefited, especially during this harvest season,” said the couple.
Farmers like Mary are already removing other lucrative crops like coffee and tea to plant avocados, popularly known as the “Green Gold,” in Murang’a County, Kenya, which produces the majority of the country’s avocados. Increased global interest has given the billion-dollar avocado sector a boost; health and wellness professionals increasingly refer to it as a super fruit. According to MD of Afrex Gold Ltd. Shiro Ndirango, “so what we have seen is a lot of demand both locally and internationally for the fruit, as people begin to grasp what the benefit is, it is pushing more farmers to come to the business.” We observe the stringent quality inspections that fruits intended for export go through inside an agro-processing facility. They are inspected for everything from size to shape, and most markets. Ndirango continues, “We are selling to wholesalers and supermarkets. Currently, Kenya is the third-largest producer of avocados in the world. It is the main fruit exported from the nation. The country of East Africa surpassed South Africa to take the top spot in Africa for avocado exports last year.