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Kenyan vigilantes taking on avocado gangs


geemong
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Kenyan vigilantes taking on avocado gangs

 

 

Kenya's avocado sector has become so lucrative that organised criminal gangs have begun to target growers.

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This is because the fruit from just one tree can pay for the private education of a secondary school student for a whole year - up to $600 (£450).

With the demand for the fruit growing in the US and Europe, Kenya overtook South Africa last year to become the continent's top avocado exporter.

Vigilante groups are now being formed to protect the crop, known as "green gold".

As night falls on a fairly large farm in the central county of Murang'a, six young men dressed in thick raincoats and armed with torches, machetes and clubs start their shift.

They have been hired to guard the farm and its precious avocados.

It is dangerous work - and people can get hurt and even killed.

"It was either us or them unfortunately and we had to protect ourselves," one of them tells me, referring to a recent incident in which a suspected avocado thief was killed.

The owner of the farm, which is about half an acre - or half the size of a football pitch, says he has had to take action as he has fallen victim to the thieves.

"You can fence the entire farm but that won't stop them," he says, showing me where his barbed wire fence has been cut.

"You spend an entire season taking care of your crops, then in a single night all your fruits are stolen in a matter of hours."

Another of the vigilantes who is mending the fence agrees: "They'll still cut it and steal what they want."

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