For many years, mango farmers from Kambiti location in Murang’a county have been counting losses during the mango seasons as many of their fruits go to waste.
The exploitation by the brokers who buy mango fruits from as low as one shilling per piece also deprive the farmers of their rightful benefits given that mangoes are seasonal.
Unable to make good profits from their seasonal cash crop, a group of farmers came together and started a self-help group. They decided to dry the mangoes which would ensure they are available in the market even when the crop is out of season.
Patrick Sila, the chairman of Kambiti East Mango farmers, says after forming the group in 2013, they started looking for a donor organisation that could help them purchase a machine to dry the mangoes. Luckily, they got a willing lender who gave them a Village Industrial Power machine on condition that they would repay the money in instalments.
Though they are yet to break even, the farmers are hoping to offset the Sh1.8 million debt through the sale of their mango products. Sila regrets that although the group started off with a large number of farmers, many dropped out on the way, leaving only 15 of them. “We had gone to several agricultural seminars and acquired the knowledge on how to dry and package the fruits,” said Sila.
Each farmer is required to have at least 30 exotic mango trees to ensure an ample supply of the fruit for processing. The more group members produce, the less they would need to source from other farmers.
Sila said Kent, Tommy and Van Dyke mango varieties are best for drying as they have less juice, thus dry faster. It takes between four and six hours for the mango clips to dry completely, after which they are packed in airtight containers. “The dried clips can last up to a year while they are still in good condition and this ensures a constant supply of mango products,” says the chairman.
A kilogramme of dried mangoes goes for Sh800 which is relatively high compared to selling the fruit raw, which earns a farmer mere Sh50 per kilogramme at farm-gate prices. “Per season we are able to process approximately 800 kilogrammes of dried mangoes. So far, we have managed to reduce post-harvest losses by over 60 per cent,” he says.
Athough they have now secured a local market, they are targeting the national and international markets for much higher returns. “We have our eyes set on countries such as South Sudan, Somalia and the Middle East region countries. We are planning for a deep market survey to look for other possible markets. We are open to ideas from donors and government officials,” says Sila.
The group has also ventured into drying and processing other foods such as pumpkins, sorghum, corn, cassava and amaranth, which they mix together to give a nutritious package both for children and adults. “We are tapping on the drought-resistant crops given that this area is relatively dry. Residents here also stand to benefit when they sell their produce to us,” says the chairman.
Samuel Mungiti, member of the group, says the processed flour can last for a year, with a kilogramme going for Sh250. “We are targeting the local schools as our main consumers for the flour. Meanwhile, we are awaiting certification from Kenya Bureau of Standards before we start supplying supermarkets,” said Mungiti.
He said they also plan to upgrade the group into a cooperative as well as expand their processing plant into a bigger industry. “If we get funding, we can expand our factory into a bigger one and this would enable us process a wider variety of fruits,” he said.