Mango farmers set to benefit from value addition
A group of mango farmers from Murang’a South Sub-County are set to reap high returns from their produce this season by embracing value addition.
Located three kilometers from the Meru-Nairobi Highway Kambiti East Mango Farmers Association which comprises of 15 members are now drying their mangoes instead of selling them when they ripen as they did few years back.
According to the Chairperson, Patrick Sila, the group started in 2013 with the idea of trying to curb post harvest losses which the farmers used to incur every time the fruits are in season.
‘’The region is semi arid and the climate is conducive for fruits like mangoes, oranges and pawpaws.”
The chair said that after attending a workshop which had been organized by agricultural department he began focusing on how his community could benefit from the information and skills he had acquired.
The chairman mobilized willing mango farmers in the area and shared the idea and the ones who bought the idea immediately set up a group.
“My area which is mainly arid and has many farmers mainly growing mangoes but they have been experiencing a lot of losses with brokers taking advantage of the situation and exploiting them.
The chair said after the group was formed, they embarked on doing proposals to get a donor to assist them buy the necessary machines for drying the mangoes and other fruits.
Sila said they were lucky to get the Village Industrial Powered machines (VIP) which basically uses firewood on loan at a total cost of sh1.8million from a lender for drying their produce but they are supposed to start repaying in installments in May last year though they are yet to break even.
The group sources for mangoes from its members and other people in the community willing to supply them.
‘’One of the requirement to join our group was that every member had to have a minimum of at least thirty (30) exotic mango trees but many of our members have even more”.
We normally buy mangoes that are not too green or ripe ( medium ripe) because this are good for drying.
“The medium ripe fruits are good for processing because before taking them for drying they are washed, peeled and sliced into thin slices”.
The group mainly specializes in adding value to mango varieties such as Kent, Tommy, Vadec and apple.
In addition, the group adds value to products like pine apples, Amaranth ( Terere ), cassavas, tomatoes and bananas.
“From terere, bananas, cassavas we normally make flour which we sell locally” he said.
He said for now they are yet to source for a nutritionist who would train the members on how to mix different flours in right quantities and qualities so that the consumers get the maximum benefits.
The group for now forexample processes flour and packs it without mixing it with other products as they await training from the experts.
Sila noted that though the group is in its initial stages if the county government helped them to fully settle the debt for the processing machines it would help greatly boost the living standards of the people living in the region and the entire county.
He also cited that the group does not process in large quantities due to lack of license and stamp from Kenya bureau of standards.
“on average every month we normally dry 1000kilograms of mangoes which is little, citing that the group had the capacity to add value to more.
He said due to hectic requirements from various department issuing licenses they normally sell their products locally though he was optimistic that once the group meets the set requirements they will be able to acquire label from KBS hence being able to supply outlets like supermarkets in the country and also export to other countries.
“From our research we have established that many countries like South Sudan, Somalia Dubai could be our major customers” he said.
He revealed that the prices of their products range depending on the products with a kilogram of dried mango fetching an average of sh.900.
“Ten (10)kilograms of fresh mangoes produces on average 8 kilograms of mango powder” adding that for the mango to be dried it has to be peeled and sliced into thin slices”
‘We do not have any workers for now as group members come to the plant everyday especially during mango season offering the required larbor “ he said adding that the proceeds are normally divided among the members with the rest going to repayment of the loan.
The VIP machine basically uses firewood to heat water which turns into a steam, hence drying the products and every member has to bring 1000kilogram of firewood per season.
“By adding value to various fruits produced here locally will ensure that our consumers get them all year round and also the farmer is able to put money on his pocket.
The chair said among the challenges the group faces is lack of piped water in the area, the VIP machine basically uses water during processing the fruits hence the members have to buy water at Sh. 20 per 20litre jerrican.
Also lack of market as the group sells its products locally with many people yet to embrace the idea of either taking maybe a fruit in powder form and they are used to fresh fruits during the season.
The group also says that they live in fear as they fear the machine maybe taken by the owners as their debts is accumulating day in and they are yet to break even.
In addition lack of power in the area poses as a risk to where they have initiated their machines.
The group appealed to the county government to chip in and help them repay their debts for the VIP machine, citing that it could be able to employ hundreds of jobless youths.
They also urged the area member of parliament to help them have piped water in the area as this would assist in cutting down the cost of running the machine.
By Judy Muguongo