When she graduated from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology where she studied fish farming management, the last thing Faith Mumo expected was to be an industrialist.
Today, the 25-year-old runs Iviani Farm, a small factory in King’uutheni village, Makueni county, which produces mango crisps mainly for export.
A visiting Seeds of Gold team bumped into the unassuming entrepreneur supervising a team of employees sorting mangoes for slicing at the factory that is at a farmer’s homestead.
“We are in the business of adding value to ripe mangoes through drying. This requires that we only work with the highest quality fruits,” Mumo said while leading the Seeds of Gold team on a tour of the factory.
Strict hygiene standards require anyone entering the factory to have a facemask, wash thoroughly and wear white coats and caps.
They should also sanitise their feet on a tray placed strategically at the entrance.
Three giant driers take much of the space in the main factory.
The remaining space is for six employees tasked with washing the fruits, slicing them methodically and dipping the slices in a bucket of lime solution.
The workers then arrange the sliced pieces on a large tray for drying.
“The lime solution ensures that the resulting crisps do not lose their distinctive flavour or go bad. It extends their shelf life by eight months,” Mumo said.
“Industry regulators recommend this solution as a preservative since it is harmless.”
Flacid mango chips
Six hour later, what used to be flaccid mango chips turn into crunchy crisps, which are then packed in fancy bags of various sizes ready for the market.
“We need seven medium-sized mangoes to get a kilogramme of crisps. A kilo of crisps sells for Sh750 but we get Sh326,” Mumo said.
“The rest goes into servicing our loan. We shall break even very soon after clearing the loan.”
The factory signed an agreement with Village Industrial Power (VIP), an organisation that designs and markets Bespoke industrial machines.
VIP has entrusted the factory with a boiler and dryers valued at Sh2 million.
The organisation markets the mango crisps and takes part of the proceeds to recover the loan.
“The boiler is suitable for small factories in the countryside as it uses wood fuel,” Stanley Ndung’u, a manager at VIP, told Seeds of Gold.
“Cuttings from pruned mangoes are enough to run the factory as the boiler is very efficient.”
Telling from the enthusiasm with which Mumo talks about dried mangoes, one can imagine that she has been in the enterprise for many decades.
However, she started the business just two years ago after taking a break from fish farming.
After graduating from university in 2019, Mumo joined the Department of Agriculture in the Makueni county government where she was an intern for a year.
Her passion in sustainable agribusiness grew when the devolved government placed her in charge of a programme that promotes fish farming.
Mumo has been an active member of Makueni Youth Agripreneurs, a vibrant platform which brings together young people undertaking and interested in agribusiness.
It exposes them to funding opportunities.
Makueni Youth Agripreneurs was formed to help young people draft business plans.
Upcoming businesspeople also had financing and bookkeeping challenges, which it wanted to address.
Mumo started gravitating towards industrialisation after meeting VIP bosses and securing a corner of a neighbour’s plot to set up the mango value-addition factory.
On average, Iviani Farm processes 1,600 kilogrammes of ripe mangoes per day.
“At Sh20 a kilo, we offer better prices of mangoes in this region compared to brokers and Makueni Fruit Processing Factory,” Mumo said.
Because of this, she has become a big buyer of local mangoes.
She has eaten a sizable pie of the popular fruits which find their way in tens of tonnes to overseas markets, the county mango factory and other regions in Kenya.
Mumo’s factory has been a benchmarking destination for countless start-ups seeking knowledge on turning good ideas into enterprises and money.
Her biggest challenge, however, has been sustaining the enterprise when the mango season ends.
Though Makueni County is the biggest producer of mangoes in Kenya, the fruits are seasonal.
Mumo is exploring ways of expanding the portfolio to bananas, pineapples and other fruits.
Martin Mboloi, the chief officer at the Department of Agriculture in Makueni County, celebrates Mumo’s entrepreneurship.
He says her factory is one of the several interventions that reduce post-harvest losses.
“Entrepreneurs should tap into the inviting opportunities of processing fruits into juice and crisps. That adds value to the produce and earnings,” Mr Mboloi said.
For grafted mango seedlings, contact +254 724559286