Equatorial Nut Processors (ENP) buys up macadamia nuts from 150,000 farmers in Kenya, processes them in its own factory and exports them to Europe, the United States and the Middle East. The company pays the farmers on taking delivery of their harvest. It teaches them how to make their own fertilizer and helps them on the road to organic farming. ENP also gives financial training and extends loans.
Farmers are given seedlings from the nursery, which they pay for after harvest. The women workers at the factory have access to daycare for their children and are given annual screenings for breast cancer and sanitary products to improve hygiene. ‘We’re like a father and mother to them’, says general manager Alex Kieme.
It sounds almost too good to be true, but Alex Kieme assures us that the nut exporter’s social policies are based entirely on mutual interest, rather than charity. ‘If we take care of our suppliers, they’ll sell their nuts to us, and not to the competition. And if we look after our workers’ health, they’re at their most productive. And if the farmers boost production, then everyone benefits.’ Commercial interests as a motivator for social enterprise – it can’t get any more sustainable than that.
Social enterprise ENP started buying macadamia nuts from Kenyan farmers twenty years ago in a bid to break the monopoly of a small number of players. ENP decided to offer the farmers better prices. Kieme: ‘This social policy reaped dividends: the farmers had a great deal of confidence in ENP and stayed loyal. Currently ENP pays 24 shillings a kilogram. We also process cashew nuts and peanuts, particularly so that we can supply bags of mixed nuts. Kenya Airways is a major customer of our company.’