Khwisero farmers alleviating poverty with banana value addition

Khwisero farmers alleviating poverty with banana value addition

Kenya farmers have found a lifeline in adding value to their harvested produce, this is not only increasing the produce’s shelf life but also tripling earnings. Value addition comes at a time when over production, shrinking market and poor postharvest handling on the farm and during transportation have taken a toll on farmer’s earnings.

Usually, Kenya farmers have an obsession of planting similar crops which have worked against them as evidenced in market oversupply. Farmers have a tendency of producing the same crop; harvested at the same time and taken to the same market, thus yielding low prices.

Such has been the case with the high yielding tissue culture banana farmers who have traditionally counted loses after the market burst due to oversupply. But with value addition, there is hope for many farmers. Farmers are embracing value addition since it is the solution to food security.

At the Khwisero trading Center, Kakamega County, sits Khwisero Food Processing Ltd a banana processing plant that has been in the business of value addition of bananas for the last three years. The Company has partnered with the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI) for training group members on value addition. Khwisero Food Processing Ltd began as a youth based organization investing in tissue culture bananas with the aim of alleviating poverty in Kakamega County.

The company has specialized in adding value to bananas, with bread, mandazi, composite flour, jam and crisps among others, being their end products.

The idea of the company came about when a group of 40 farmers saw the need of identifying a crop that could turn around their lives and the community at a large. The group has grown in total to 130 farmers with each member being required to have a banana orchard where Williams and PHIA17 varieties are grown.

“We visited KIRDI; Kisii County where we got inspiration on banana value addition. This encouraged us and we made a proposal to Western Kenya Community Driven Drought and Mitigation Program a non-governmental organization functioning under the World Bank for funding and they funded us to a tune of 7.4 million. We purchased machines and constructed the facility that hosts us,” Abraham Kutswa administrator of the Company said.

The company also collects bananas from other farmers in specified collection centers in the county. The produce is brought to the processing center where it is weighed, washed, peeled and used to process the various products.

According to Abraham, they buy a kilo at Sh14 from farmers. “The value addition process begins with weighing, sorting and grading. We then peel and wash the bananas before we feed into machine to be sliced into smaller chunks,” says Kutswa. The sliced bananas are later fried to make crisps or dried and milled into flour.

“Bananas can be processed to make flour, which can either be fortified to make nutritious porridge and when mixed with wheat flour, it can be used to make chapatti, mandazi and banana cakes.

Cut green bananas from the bunch. Slice into small pieces with peelings to maintain nutrients found in the peels. Sun–dry on the rack until 10 per cent moisture content is achieved. Thereafter, mill and sift and package and store in a closed, dry place,” Kutswa averred.

“We also process crisps by deep frying banana chunks in oil, cool and pack in 30g sachets, which retail Sh20 each,” says Kutswa. The chips are dried in a solar dryer. It takes four days for the sliced chips to be fully dry. They are then milled into flour, with a kilo going for Sh200 each. Khwisero Food Processing Ltd produces 200 loaves per day and 2,000 mandazi depending on the season and the market. “We have two tenders with schools in this region where we supply our produce on a daily basis. We supply to shops and other major retail outlets in Kakamega town. Sports events are also a good opportunity where we market our produce,” Kutswa said.

The community has embraced their products as they are natural and nutritious. The company processes about 400kg of bananas daily. In a good month, the plant makes sales of

Sh240, 000 from the banana value added products.

Kutswa says they have been ploughing their profits back into the business. However, this year they plan to declare dividends and divide shares among members. He advises farmers to have a year planting scheme before going into value addition to ensure there is enough raw material.

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