Avocados without artificial irrigation

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Production Ecology

Following a successful test phase in 2023, we're now sourcing avocados from Kenya. The East African country came into consideration due to concerns about water.

According to the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture, avocados are one of the top-selling fruits in Switzerland. It has ranked eighth in this country since 2022, with around 15'000 tonnes sold every year. But avocados have also faced some criticism, mainly because of their enormous water consumption.

Depending on the variety and growing region, an avocado tree needs 500 to 1'500 litres of water to produce one kilo of fruit. That may sound concerning at first. But as Thomas Bernet points out, "When looking at water consumption, it is important to know how much water is available in a given area and whether it's needed for other purposes." Bernet is an agricultural engineer and leader of the Value Chains & Markets group at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL. "Avocado farming is particularly problematic if the fruit is grown in areas that are too dry."

This is the main point of contention with avocados. Many of the fruits that end up in local supermarkets come from areas that are too dry. "Countries like Chile and Peru as well as southern Spain are very critical of avocado farming," says Bernet. "The Pacific coast, where avocado farming has expanded massively in recent years, is actually a desert, and southern Spain also suffers from chronic water shortages. All these regions require irrigation, while other areas lack water altogether. This has detrimental effects for the local population."

Kenya can do without irrigation

But it doesn't have to be this way. We've found producers in Kenya who don't need to irrigate their trees. "Avocados thrive without irrigation in Kenya, where the trees are well adapted to the tropical wet climate," says Bernet.

Kenya produces 416'000 tonnes of avocados per year, making it the sixth largest producer in the world. Most of the fruit remains in the country – Kenya exports just under 100'000 tonnes per year. One of the reasons is that avocados are a staple food in Kenya. They're firmly rooted in the local market and culture.

"The avocado is an important cash crop in Kenya, particularly for family farmers with little land, as it’s a key source of income for them. Since the farmers usually don't need to irrigate their trees, the avocado is also a very sustainable crop," says Bernet.

Not all regions of Kenya suffer from drought

Kenya is not a place where you would expect heavy rainfall, especially given the exceptional drought conditions over the past two or three years. But it's a big country, and not all regions are impacted by the drought to the same extent. The avocado growing areas in Kenya are located right on the equator, the part that receives the most rain, with annual precipitation levels of 1'000 to 2'000 mm. What's more, many of the avocados in Kenya are grown on small farms rather than large plantations. There are many older trees on these farms, measuring six to eight metres in height with deep roots. These trees take up all the water they need from the ground.

The Kenyan avocados in our shop are sourced from 427 family farmers who grow organic avocados on plots ranging from 0.1 to 2.4 hectares. They live in the regions of Kiambu, Muranga and Kirinyaga, which are also known as avocado counties in Kenya. These are small farms that rely entirely on the rain for cultivation.

The family farmers deliver their fruit to Goshen Farm Exporters. The company was founded by Alex Muli Mutua and Mary, his mother, who is also a farmer. Their aim is to create market access for family farmers, just as gebana does. With a view on long-term cooperation, Goshen trains the producers in organic farming, helps them care for their trees and during the harvest season, distributes seedlings and seeds and pre-finances harvests.

The company sorts and packs the avocados on site. After the harvest, they transport the fruit by lorry to Mombasa. From there, it's shipped to Rotterdam. The avocados are then transported by lorry to our shipping warehouses in Switzerland and Germany. Their next stop is our customers' homes.

Avocados from Kenya are still available in our online shop until 10.03 or 07.04.

About Thomas Bernet

Thomas Bernet has been with the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL for 12 years. He leads the Value Chains & Markets Group in the Department of International Cooperation.

Bernet is currently managing a project in Kenya with the Kenyan Organic Agriculture Network, with the aim of developing the agricultural export and domestic market in Kenya. Avocados are one of the crops in this project. Read more about Thomas Bernet here.


FAOSTAT. (2020). Link (accessed on 23.01.2024)

M. Amare, J. Mariara, R. Oostendorp, M. Pradhan (2019): “The impact of smallholder farmers’ participation in avocado export markets on the labor market, farm yields, sales prices, and incomes in Kenya”, Land use Policy, 88, Article 104168, Link (accessed on 23.01.2024)

Clinton O Nyakang'i, Rebecca Ebere, Eunice Marete, Joshua M. Arimi (2023): “Avocado production in Kenya in relation to the world, Avocado by-products (seeds and peels) functionality and utilization in food products”, Applied Food Research, Volume 3, Issue 1, 100275, Link (accessed on 22.02.2024)

Marktbericht Früchte und Gemüse, Bundesamt für Landwirtschaft (BLW), Link (accessed on 24.01.2024)

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