•Simon Musyoka invested Sh8 million to start that factory and has since employed more than 20 workers.
Kitui County is characterised by unreliable rainfall across the year. Mangoes are among the few evergreen trees in the area.
Mango fruit farming is adaptable to this climate, hence offering an opportunity to improve the lives of farmers in the region.
Kitui County Government, in collaboration with the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, has come up with a project of value chain addition on mangoes.
Up to 50 per cent of mangoes go to waste as a result of a lack of a ready market and poor post-harvest storage methods.
Value addition will now bring food security as the mangoes can now last throughout the year.
It will also improve livelihoods of residents. Simon Musyoka, a farmer at Ithiani village in Kitui Central, has adopted a modern method of ensuring his mango harvest does not go to waste by drying them.
Musyoka is processing mango flakes for export to USA.
Simon says that raw mango produce goes for Sh15 per kilo whereas the dried mango flakes go for Sh500 per kilogramme.
Musyoka invested Sh8 million to start that factory and has since employed more than 20 workers.
“I still need more cash like up to Sh8 million to get to where I want the company to be, which includes the purchase of more equipment and increase manpower,” said Musyoka.
The farmer has also sourced for other mango markets outside Kitui and the only month where there are no mangoes is October.
“We source mangoes from Malindi, Kilifi, Hola, Witu, and Lamu among other regions and we take our leave in October,” said the farmer.
Musyoka urged farmers to be more serious with mango farming and also join cooperatives so that they may easily benefit from mango farming, which over the years has not been profitable.
Explaining the process of drying mangoes, he said after receiving the mangoes, they are washed and stored in the cold room, taken to the factory for peeling, slicing, and then taken to the solar drier.
Dr Evelyn Okoth, a senior food technologist in JKUAT, who has been training officers from the ten cooperatives in Kitui at the facility, praised the project.
“I think every county should embrace value chain addition as through the venture, there is less post-harvest destruction of harvests and mostly, wealth creation,” said Okoth.
Kitui value chain addition specialist Dr Temi Mutia said that in this particular mango season, their focus is to make sure that they make enough mango flakes.
They are training Trainer of Trainees who will go and reciprocate the same to other farmers at the grassroots level.
Temi also pointed out that they are taking advantage of the sunshine, which has always been seen as a problem, to dry vegetables, fruits and other crops.
Kitui Agriculture CEC Emmanuel Kisangau urged farmers to embrace mango value addition so as to minimise low returns gotten from selling fresh produce.
He urged them to plant as many mango trees as possible as there is an assured market for the value-added produce.