Women group in Embu County take banana farming a notch higher
Faith Mbogo cultivates banana in Kirigi village, Embu County, a venture she almost gave up about six years ago due to exploitation by middle men, but has instead renewed hope of women in banana farming in the county.
“Brokers come to buy banana from us for example 100 at Kshs. 150 to Kshs 200. Even you can see that we were getting almost nothing. The price is so low that cannot even pay our farm workers leave alone meeting our many family needs,”she says.
Tired of exploitation by middlemen without quitting banana farming, Faith joined hand with seven other like minded women banana farmers in the County and embarked on a new venture-adding value to their produce.
This is the immediate gain that Faith and her other colleagues reaped from the new project of making flour from raw bananas an idea that has seen them maximize on their returns.
“We used only Kshs 5000 tukianza hii mradi (at the beginning of this project),” Faith. The project was then followed by series of training and seminars which according to Faith gave them alot of exposure to the world of value addition and eventually to a financial breakthrough.
The seven women of faith had also learnt about writing proposals to financiers. Tuliandika proposal tukapewa elfu mia mbili na ishirini na moja na tukaangukia (we wrote a proposal and were lucky enough to be given two hundred and twenty one,” she shares.
Faith and he colleagues today collectively have 16 acres of land under banana plantation, providing them with the much needed raw materials to make the banana flour.
The group harvests four bunches (50kilos) each of raw banana every week. To make the banana floor, the first stage is to thoroughly wash the produce with clean water, and then chopped into small pieces using locally sourced slicing machine and nothing goes to waste as the bananas are chopped without pealing
According to experts Kenya Agricultural Research Organisation (KALRO), banana peals are are rich source of soluble and insoluble fibre. Tumeaona hiyo inasaidia sana wale wagonjwa wanaougua ugonjwa wa sukari (we have seen that helping much people who are diabetic),” Faith says.
The chopped bananas are then transferred to another locally improvised modest solar drier to dry out for two days. The dry slices are crushed to make banana floor.
Faith and her group process 200 kilos of banana floor weekly and selling a kilo of the banana floor at Kshs. 200. The floor is packaged in small sachets. To get one kilo of banana floor, Faith requires three and a half kilos of raw bananas.
Tuseme umenunua ndizi ya 20Kgs, hiyo ndizi ukikausha kwa drier ita kuletea kilo nne na nusu ukisiaga na ukiuza kwa bei yetu ya unga inakuja Shilingi elfu moja mia mbili ama elfu moja mia tatu. Ikiwa imekaushwa vizuri, inaweza kukaa kwa miezi sita. (“ Lets say you buy 20kgs of bananas and properly dry it, it will produce four and a half kilos and when you sell at our price you can get Kshs 1200 or Kshs. 1300 and can also stay for six months,” she says.)
According to KALRO Kenya produces an estimate of 1.5million turns of bananas annually for domestic consumption as well as export market meaning that there is still space for new comers to join the field and make more through value addition
By Malachi Motano