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A major win

Photo: naturamus / Timothy Barnes

Delicious, healthy, nutritious: avocados play a crucial role in the food industry. Thanks to the valuable fatty acids and vitamins they contain, they are also a popular, nourishing ingredient in cosmetic products – but their environmental impact is devastating. In Central and South America in particular, avocado farming is often associated with monoculture, deforestation, high water consumption and poor working conditions. Needless to say, WALA believes this is simply unacceptable. That’s why we’ve launched our ‘Organic avocado’ project with our partner LIMBUA. Sustainably farmed avocados, processed locally and fairly traded, are good for the skin and good for the world.

In harmony with people and nature

At LIMBUA, farming, harvesting and processing are carried out in harmony with people and nature. The region surrounding Mount Kenya offers the perfect climatic conditions and plenty of natural precipitation, meaning that additional irrigation is not needed. Using a mixed cultivation strategy, organic avocados grow side by side with mangos and macadamia nuts in agroforestry systems at the foot of Africa’s second-tallest mountain. This might sound like a new-fangled approach but it’s actually a sustainable growing technique traditionally used in rural areas. Around 5,000 independent farming families are involved in LIMBUA. If you take their relatives into account, organic farming in harmony with nature puts food on the table for around 25,000 people.

100% traceable, right back to the farm

WALA has been working closely with LIMBUA since as far back as 2009. The collaboration started with organic macadamia nuts, which were then followed by the ‘Organic avocado’ project in 2016. While the farming technique used is a traditional one, the way in which the harvested crops are tracked is as modern as it gets: it’s possible to follow the avocados’ journey digitally from start to finish. ‘Field officers’ collect the avocados from the farms, weighing the harvest there and then on a mobile, digital set of scales. Farmers use their fingerprint to identify themselves and simultaneously confirm the weight shown. A mobile payment system then sends their money straight to their mobile phone, where they can see instantly that the funds have been received. The produce is transported from farm to factory in boxes bearing a barcode, enabling the origin of the avocados to be ascertained at all times – even while they’re being processed in the factory.

Using a mixed cultivation strategy, organic avocados grow side by side with mangos and macadamia nuts in agroforestry systems in the region surrounding Mount Kenya.
Photo: naturamus / Abigail Birech
The avocados travel from farm to factory in boxes bearing barcodes, so their journey can be tracked digitally from start to finish.
Photo: naturamus / Abigail Birech
Processing the avocados locally creates numerous jobs, ranging from simple roles to those requiring specialist knowledge. This gives lots of young people the chance to stay in the place they grew up, even if this is a rural area.
Photo: Limbua Group / Abigail Birech

Processing in the country of origin

The last step in the supply chain, namely processing the avocados into oil, has also been performed in Kenya since 2021 with WALA’s support. Contrary to the common practice of building large, efficient production facilities, LIMBUA has factories in multiple locations near the avocado farms. This ensures the produce does not travel far from the farm to the processing site, guaranteeing freshness, high quality and minimal CO₂ emissions. We have been using the organic avocado oil produced by LIMBUA and certified by ‘Fair for Life’ in our Dr. Hauschka products since 2021.

New jobs, new expertise

One major benefit of processing the avocados within Kenya is that people are involved in the supply chain to a greater extent. Most of the workers in the factories come from farming families in the surrounding region, and, by extension, are involved in processing their own raw materials. This gives them the chance to learn valuable techniques in this respect and build up important expertise within the country. In turn, this creates a wide range of jobs – ranging from positions revolving around simple, manual tasks to those that require expertise in food technology or agricultural science. This gives lots of young people the chance to stay in the place they grew up, even if this is a rural area.

‘Fair for Life’ certification

naturamus GmbH, an independent subsidiary of WALA, is responsible for procuring all the raw materials for Dr. Hauschka cosmetics and WALA medicines. Like LIMBUA, naturamus is ‘Fair for Life’-certified. This seal is a particularly demanding fairtrade standard and certifies the socio-environmental sustainability of the supply chain, from the source right through to the final product. In addition, naturamus supports the Fair for Life fund, managed by LIMBUA, by paying a surcharge of 5 percent on top of the purchase price. Over the past few years, the fund has bought textbooks and exercise books for children in financially disadvantaged families, for instance, and new seedlings and organic fertilisers.

LIMBUA’s work has a wide-ranging impact across the region: people can see that the value created is kept in Embu, that education and training are actively promoted and that the avocados grown using this sustainable method are sold at stable prices. And that’s the major win of the ‘Organic avocado’ project.