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January 30, 2010

Kenya, Uganda fruit farmers to supply Coca Cola

by Byron Butler

The Coca-Cola Company has entered into a partnership with non-profit TechnoServe and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help 50,000 small fruit farmers in Uganda and Kenya increase productivity, with the aim of doubling their incomes by 2014.

For the first time, this four-year, $11.5 million project will allow mango and passion fruit farmers to take part in Coca-Cola’s supply chain. Implementing partner Technoserve will facilitate access to credit and train participating farmers in improving quality, increasing production, and organizing farmer groups. These local farmers’ fruit will eventually be used for Coca-Cola’s locally-produced and distributed juices drinks.

With global and local demand for fruit juice growing steadily, corporations like Coca-Cola need to find innovative strategies to increase supply. By offering a new market opportunity to farmers while meeting Coca-Cola’s need for locally sourced fruit, the plan is one that Coca-Cola hopes to replicate elsewhere.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Global Development Program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation says that by participating in the project, her foundation aims to help "revitalize African agriculture." The program has committed to contribute more than $1.4 billion to Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to strengthen the global production chain, ensuring the long-term viability of efforts to reduce poverty.

TechnoServe has a history of pursuing this type of work in Africa, related to banana, cashew, cocoa and coffee crops. Founded in 1968, the American nonprofit has assisted in the creation or expansion of thousands of businesses in more than 30 countries. TechnoServe has been called one of the top five NGOs for corporate partnerships by the Financial Times, and holds Charity Navigator’s highest rating.

"This partnership is a great example of sustainability," says Nathan Kalumbu, Coca Cola’s East & Central Africa business unit president, describing its benefit to society as encompassing "both the community and our business." The governments of Kenya and Uganda will help to implement the project, which complements their poverty-reduction strategies.

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