Thousands of mango farmers in Kenya‘s Tana River county expect dividends from the Hola mango processing plant.
The project, which is funded by the Coast Development Authority, has helped farmers do away with brokers and middlemen who used to exploit them.
Currently, the farmers sell their mangoes directly to the Hola Integrated Fruit Processing Plant.
Mango farmers in Kenya, and the processing plant
Coast Development Authority constructed the fruit processing plant at a cost of Sh190 million at the Boji area near Hola, which has a capacity of crushing 1.5 tons of mangoes per hour.
CDA managing director Dr. Mohamed Keinan said the plant will support mango farmers from Tana River, Garissa, Lamu, and Kilifi counties.
He said Tana River produces 223,360 tons of mangoes each year which used to be bought at 50 cents per piece, but with the new plant, they will benefit and sell at a fair price.
Further, he said the farmers used to incur post-harvest losses ranging from 20 to 40 percent due to improper treatment and handling from harvesting to the time the mangoes reached the consumer or factory, however, this has now been addressed through the plant.
“CDA will help farmers to add value to their products using modern processing and packaging machinery besides processing the mangoes closer to the farmers,” he said.
Hitherto, he said, CDA has bought and installed the modern equipment at the plant and completed the construction of auxiliary infrastructure.
Keinan said currently, they have begun buying the mangoes from farmers in tonnes and will be processing the fruits throughout the year,
“We plan to employ 80 percent women and youth directly and another 1,500 indirectly besides training 3,000 farmers on good agricultural practices,” he said.
He said the integrated fruit processor will improve the production of quality fruits in the area, enhance efficiency and quality of production through value addition of fruits.
It will also create and increase employment opportunities for the youth and women and provide a market for fruit farmers besides enhancing the resource base for the CDA.
Apart from processing fruits, Keinan said the plant is also treating and packaging bottled water.
He said they will also start crushing oranges, passion fruits, honey processing, and pineapples during the mango off-season.
This he said is in order to operate at its optimum and improve the living standards of the Coastal smallholder fruit farmer which will enhance CDA’s revenue base.
He said they have a two-tonne mango crushing machine that is able to crush 10 tonnes of mangoes per day.
The fruit processor he said is a big milestone in the Big 4 agenda since it will address crucial sectors of enhancing food security, industrialisation, manufacturing through value addition, and irrigation in other parts of the Coast region.
Galole farmers cooperative Society chairman Jilo Sale who leads over 1,720 members, said the processor has enabled them sell mangoes in large numbers and at a good price.
Currently, he said, an individual farmer is able to harvest between 10 to 20 tonnes of mangoes and once delivered at the Hola integrated fruit processing plant get good dividends.
“This will improve our living standards and give quality education to our children,” the chairman said.
Hamesa Hassan a mango farmer from Galole thanked the CDA for building the capacity of the farmers through training on harvesting and mitigating post-harvesting losses.
CDA Director for Business Development, Partnership, and Collaboration Griffin Muthomi said the authority trains 500 farmers per year on the principles of harvesting quality mangoes and accessing markets.
He said they have now eliminated middlemen from the mango chain production by buying all mangoes from farmers.
Muthomi added that CDA was also training mango farmers on the concept of planting the fruit in pest-free areas in order to penetrate the European Union market of Italy, Germany, and the UK which are very particular with quality.
The Hola Integrated Fruit Processing Plant coordinator Cynthia Mugo said besides addressing post-harvest losses from mango farmers, the plant has employed 1,500 people directly and indirectly besides helping 30,000 people in the Coast through value addition and increasing the shelf life of mangoes.
“We are also marketing the by-products of the crushed mangoes to pharmaceutical companies and animal food processors,” she said.