Use value addition to cut post-harvest losses

Traders sell bananas at Ntharene market in Imenti South. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Traders sell bananas at Ntharene market in Imenti South. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The manufacturing pillar must revolve around minimising post-harvest losses and utilising local resources through value addition at county level.

Everything has a value if people are willing to find a way to make it useful through value addition.

But although value addition has become a buzzword in this part of the world, few realise that local farmers can play a major role towards the development of the manufacturing industry by simple value addition exercise on the locally available produce and resources around them or further upgrading of their cottage industries.

Value addition is not as complicated as many of us may think and this is well demonstrated by the entrepreneurial activities happening by the road side on the busy Nairobi-Nyeri highway.

You will notice that local entrepreneurs residing in that area have found an opportunity on adding value on the long grass that grows in that area producing paddy hay and selling to dairy farmers residing in the larger Mount Kenya region.

This activity has turned a section that was originally dead in to a beehive of activities with lorries and pickups lining up to load as much as they can for resell or for dairy farming consumption.

This long grass that would not have fetched much few years ago has now become an important resource to the locals by just adding value on it through a mechanised tractor that converts it in to blocks of hay.

As you pass through many of our markets you meet hardworking farmers on motorcycles loaded with stack of bananas, crates of tomatoes and mangoes taking them to the nearest market to sell as raw products.

What is shocking is the difference in prices between what the farmers earn compared to the market prices in major outlets such as Nairobi.

All this happens due to lack of other accessible markets that the farmers can sell their products to be processed into finished goods.

The most astonishing result are the big heaps of rotten mangoes, bananas and tomatoes that litter sections of market signifying post-harvest losses.

This scenario of huge post-harvest losses in agricultural products or locally underutilized resources is not just happening in one region, but is replicated in probably all parts of Kenya from tea, sugarcane and fish farming.

For instance research from other tea producing countries have shown that fibre from tea waste can be converted into different industrially implemented products like low cost absorbent during removal of pollutants from waste water.

Other products from waste products include extraction of caffeine to be used in pharmaceutical industries and also production of feeds for domestic animals. But is it happening here? Not yet.

Quite recently Makueni County showcased a model of how local communities can be empowered through provision of market for locally produced products by developing manufacturing plants to add value on mangoes and milk hence reducing post-harvest losses on the products.

Although I have not heard any county members visiting Makueni County for benchmarking purposes, this is a model that should be replicated in other counties based on the resources available if the manufacturing pillar is to be actualised and also poverty reduction goal is to be achieved.

It is also important for other counties to document any such small scale manufacturing activities happening in their localities for learning purposes.

David Kabata, Kirinyaga University.