Value addition in bananas boosting farmer’s returns
Kamahuha Banana Growers and Marketing CBO was started 14 years ago as self-help group with about 10 members only. It grew to training farmers on tissue culture banana farming to ensure small scale farmers get value from their produce.
Its membership has grown to 70 members and is currently operating as a Community Based Organization. Coming together as farmers has helped them transform their lives, pay school fees comfortably for their children and achieve sustained livelihoods. Through the membership, the CBO is able to go round the member’s farms to monitor banana growing methods and inspecting farms to ensure quality. The centre is also a milk collection centre for Brookside Dairy Limited whom they have a renewable contract with every three months.
The centre works with over 100 dairy farmers who deliver their milk. In a day, they receive between 250-300 litres of milk. Some of it is sold to the local community while the surplus goes to Brookside. Apart from being the control centre, they also run three collection centres in the area. Last month they were able to sell 8000 litres to Brookside. The farmers are paid at the end of every month.
The chairman Crispin Kinyanjui is keen on working with farmers in order to ensure quality improvement and build the capacity of the farmers at the same time. In 2012, the World Bank through the Natural Resource Management Authority supported them under the livelihood micro projects to start banana processing. In addition, the centre has been working closely with the county government to help them diversify value addition of the bananas.
The seedlings are bought from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) to ensure farmers get quality seedlings. The centre also has a banana hardening nursery and a demo plot where the farmers are taught in detail how to grow and take care of the tissue culture bananas.
Once the bananas arrive at the centre, they are weighed and washed. They are then peeled and dipped in a solution of water and salt so that they do not discolor. The next step is frying in vegetable oil for 10 minutes to make crisps. Once cooked they are allowed to cool, then sorted, packed, weighed, sealed and labelled ready for the market.
Apart from the crisps, Crispin is also doing testing for banana flour. He is optimistic that once they get the standardization mark from Kenya Bureau of Standards, they will be able to push the product to external markets. Through AAA membership, Crispin says he has benefitted from interacting with other members. He has acquired a lot of skills and technical knowhow on banana processing. In line with the new devolution structure, they are in the processing of registering the CBO as a cooperative society. Crispin notes that this will give them mileage in access of funding for expansion purposes.
This year, they hope to minimize the sale of raw bananas and start commercial processing of bananas. Crispin is the team that will be heading to Dar es Salaam to exhibit their products during the All Africa Trade Fair later this month where he will be doing market testing for Shangwe Banana Crisps.
Plans are also underway to engage in value addition of milk. The members also hope to open an agrovet shop to make inputs and animal feeds more accessible to the farmers. Crispin also intends to export his products to international markets through the contacts made in the AAA club.