Nearly 5000 farming families, around 450 employees and one vision that unites them all: creating value in Kenya. Sounds like gebana? Not quite.
“We dry our macadamia nuts for ten days,” says Klaus-Werner Horlitz on the phone. Most other producers would shake their heads if they heard him. This is because the nuts are usually dried in just a few days after washing, and then cracked.
But Horlitz knows his stuff. He is the sales manager of our partner LIMBUA, a German-Kenyan company that differs from other producers in many ways.
Around 450 employees wash, dry, crack and package the nuts at three processing sites in Kenya. They are mainly women and most of them come from the farming families who supply the raw nuts.
A Salary After the Season Ends, Too
For their work in the factories at the foot of Mount Kenya, the women receive a basic salary that exceeds the minimum wage in the country. Those who deliver a lot of whole nuts get a bonus, since broken nuts are harder to sell for wholesalers – but we only sell broken nuts in our shop.
The women work in the factories from January to July. Then, there is a break until the next harvest. They have health and pension insurance all year round and still receive part of their basic salary at the end of the season – financed by the company's profits. That way, LIMBUA doesn't have to fire them or look for new people in January.
According to Horlitz, the company invests the rest of the profit in new projects and growth. For example, in their own tree nursery, where farming families can buy seedlings at low cost, in training courses or in new production facilities.
Farming Families Have to Prove That They Are Organic
The company is special in other ways, too. For example, LIMBUA has two managing directors: one in Germany and one in Kenya. The German managing director is usually also in Kenya. His name is Matti Spiecker and he founded the company around 14 years ago.
Inspired by a research trip, Spiecker went to Kenya in 2006. Together with a few farming families, he tried to export organically produced macadamia nuts.
Today, LIMBUA processes raw nuts from almost 5000 farming families. More families are on hold, as Horlitz explains. “For two years, they have to prove that they are actually grown organically,” he says. "Only then will we let them become one of our suppliers."
Every farming family is digitally recorded
LIMBUA has a contract with every family and knows exactly how many trees each family has and roughly how many nuts they can supply per season.
The contracts and knowledge of the quantities are important, as Horlitz explains, because it has happened that a farmer complements his delivery with nuts from his sister or cousin. But we can’t know whether the extra nuts were grown organically or not, says Horlitz.
To simplify the tracking process, the families are given reusable delivery boxes with a scannable code. The code is part of a self-developed software that records information such as the expected delivery quantity.
If everything is in order with the delivery, the processing can begin. The nuts end up in their original box after each step so that LIMBUA can trace the origin of each individual nut, right up to the moment it is packaged.