BY MWAKERA MWAJEFA
More than 150,000 households are set to benefit from Jomo Kenyatta University Agriculture and Technology’s five year manufacturing research that is meant to add value to the coconut products in the Coast region,
Prof Benard Ikua, who is the acting JKUAT deputy vice-chancellor (DVC) administration, says after their September 2017 tour of the region they developed the manufacturing research programme to answer some of the queries raised by the coconut stakeholders.
According to him the tour was an ‘eye-opener’ to the massive unexploited potential of the coconut tree that has multiple uses without a single part of it that can be termed as waste material.
Some of the targeted products for value addition improvement; Prof Ikua cites those dealing with textile, biomass, energy (charcoal), beauty products, ornaments, and ingredients of foodstuff among others.
“We want after five years of research and collaboration to not only increase coconut growing but also to make sure whenever somebody mentions coconut globally what comes to their mind is Kenya,” he adds.
According to the professor of mechanical engineering time has come for the universities to find solution of the small-scale manufacturers’ desire to have machinery equipment that can help them improve their quality and production of their goodies.
Most of those participating in the manufacturing training at the JKUAT Mombasa Campus from Today (May 13) to 16, expressed concern that as small-scale entrepreneurs they could not compete with their large-scale manufacturing rivals.
Mwinyi Bendera (farmer), Cosmos Mole (coconut oil manufacturer) and Fellista Yawa (charcoal manufacturer) decried lack of machinery to increase their productivity, packaging, branding and marketing of end products.
Said Ms Yawa: “We are forced to use manual means to make our charcoal from the coconut trees but this is a tedious and cumbersome way of doing business. If we had machinery, we could do between 40 and 50 sacks a day.”
The training targets to impart knowledge on standardisation, record keeping, business registration and planning, business finance, marketing and branding, and occupational safety to the stakeholders.
There are approximately 10 million coconut trees from Vanga in Kwale County to Kiunga in Lamu County with other pockets found in Taveta Subcounty of Taita Taveta County.
Although Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) is yet to launch its distribution of cashew and coconut seedlings in the Coast region, an official Teddy Yawa, attending the JKUAT training, said the registration of farmers was ongoing.
AFA intends to distribute 310,000 cashewnut and 280,000 coconut seedlings to farmers across all counties which grow these crops such as Kwale, Kilifi, Tana River, Lamu and Taveta Subcounty.
In line with this, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation in collaboration with KAGRC KALRO and Kwale County organise a Farmers’ Field Day at KALRO Matuga on May 10-11 where experts in animal breeding and crop production were at hand to assist farmers during the exhibition event.