KENYA- For most farmers in Kenya today, the big dilemma is whether to carry on with agriculture as a business venture.
Unreliable weather patterns have crippled their rain-fed farming while the small profit margins from the sale of unprocessed products are not encouraging to the farmers who contribute immensely to the country’s food security and employment.
Value-addition makes the best of produce by putting them and their by-products to various uses.
“Farmers incur a lot of losses at the farm level because we only take the best fruits or vegetables for export,” said Dorothy Otieno, the director of sales and marketing at Miyonga Fresh Greens, a fruit and vegetable exporter, based in Machakos County.
She told the Business Daily in an interview that the level of losses farmers incur because of rejected mangoes during production made the company to come up with a way of salvaging the rejects.
From the rejected mangoes, they started making mango powder.
“We decided to add value to all the rejects to boost income for farmers.
When packing, 30 per cent of the fruits or vegetables is normally rejected, we needed to control the wastage,” she said.
One of the advantages of collecting the rejects is that it controls fruit flies and pests which are not only a nuisance, but which can contaminate food with bacteria and other organisms.
The company has contracted farmers from some of the driest regions in Kenya-Garissa and Makueni.
Powdered mangoes have a long lifespan and do not lose nutritional value, she said.
It is used to flavour yoghurt and smoothies, and even make cakes and salads.
Another firm that makes mango powder is the Kitui Enterprise Promotion Company (KEP).
“We make fruit concentrates from the powder and thereafter make juice which has 60 per cent fruit content,” said Mrs Serah Mwendwa, the sales and marketing officer at the company.
“To improve nutrition in the community, the company blends the powder with sorghum flour,” she said.
The company works with more than 1,200 mango farmers in Kitui County who have been supplying the fruits for the last six years.
In addition to the fruits, KEP has been promoting the planting of mango seedlings to further improve farmers’ income.
In bid to lift the standards of living in Kitui, Mr Antony Kimani started making powder from baobab fruits.
Mr Kimani is the managing director of the Starlite Valley Producers, which is located at the Kenya Industrial Estates in Kitui Town.
The company seeks to produce oil from baobab fruit seeds in future, he said, and added that the fruits are liked all over the world because they are nutritious.
“In Western Kenya, farmers can make as much as Sh44,000 per month from an eighth-acre land by planting 125 pawpaw plants,” said Felix Asenji, the director of Kenya Papaya Products.
The company buys paw paws to make jam, pawpaw latex to make beauty products, and honey from contracted farmers in the region.