Located at the Agricultural Training Centre is Kisii Banana Factory with the potential of boosting profitability. The structures are ready and logistics at an advanced level. It is a matter of months before the recently acquired machinery crush the first bunch.
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The abundance of bananas in Gusii highlands is what attracted the mega project. The plant will not only place a broad smile on the face of job seekers but also farmers. More so, the factory will absorb economic tremors occasioned by the untimely shutdown of Coca Cola Kisii Bottlers.
Kisii Banana Factory worth Ksh. 170 million
The banana value chain project is a brainchild of Kisii County with significant backing from the European Union.
Sources indicate that the two stakeholders collectively contributed a whooping Ksh. 170 million.
The figure includes Ksh. 110 million from the European Union and Ksh. 60 million from Kisii County.
With all the financing, it is still uncertain if the factory will redeem farmers from grievous losses and young people from excessive tarmacking.
A Banana Farmers’ Cooperative Society with 2250 members
Kisii County Governor James Ongwae has confirmed registering a banana farmers’ cooperative society.
Each of the 45 wards has already registered 50 members bringing the total number of involved farmers to 2250.
Underway is a farmers’ training program to start as soon as the society membership hits 11,000.
The capacity of banana production in Kisii County
According to CEC Agriculture, Mr Esman Nyandikah Onsarigo, local farmers produce at least 350,000 metric tonnes of banana.
Sadly, much of this produce attracts little income with only 30,000 metric tonnes crossing to nearby counties such as Nakuru and Nairobi.
As a result, most farmers are ceasing large scale production because of low returns.
A gradual decline of banana markets in leading markets such as Keumbu, Keroka, Igare, Riosiri, and Daraja Mbili is evident.
Kisii Banana Factory launched
Governor Ongwae launched the construction of a banana factory in April 2019. In his company were CS Eugene Wamalwa and Vincent De Boer of the European Union.
“As minister for devolution, I am proud of the development progress in Kisii. Whenever I visit the county, I can’t fail to observe fruits of devolution which are well seen to everyone. Recently, I was here with President Uhuru Kenyatta and we saw a stadium that is well built. The President also launched a state of the art medical equipment and other health infrastructure that are of a great benefit to this region.”Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa.
The laying of initial blocks pleased Vincent De Boer, head of Macroeconomics at the European Union.
Governor Ongwae had this to say.
“Upon completion, we shall have a running factory producing banana flour, wine, fibre, fertilizer, artificial hair pieces among other products.”Governor James Ongwae.
Other dignitaries in the grand opening of Kisii Banana Factory are DG Joash Maangi and Charles Sunkuli.
Commercial banana variety suckers to boost production
Stakeholders have so far issued about 50,000 banana seedlings in the hope of increasing yearly turnover.
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Targeted are South Nyanza farmers in areas such as Nyamira, Migori, and Homabay.
Most importantly, the factory is set to create at least 500 jobs once rolled out.
Two wings: a processing plant and a hybrid solar drier
Skyvill Enterprises Ltd is the contractor in charge of building the banana processing plant.
The company operations manager, Jonathan Mungai, says Kisii County was highly cooperative in providing technical and financial support.
On the other hand, Bee J Engineering Ltd is the contractor who delivered a hybrid solar biomass drier.
“We have gone for the hybrid solar dryers because they retain the quality of the bananas. We do not want to change the quality of the banana that our customers and consumers are used to.”Agriculture CEC, Esman Onsarigo.
According to Bee J Engineer Joshua Obina, the dryers are handy in realizing up to 10 tonnes in daily production.
“Minus the solar dryers, the factory will not work. In other words, the factory depends on the materials which are from the dryer section.”Bee J Engineer Joshua Obina.
Who will run the factory? A private investor will run the Kisii Banana Factory with direct supervision from the Kisii County government.
Actual production may take a little longer because investors are yet to express interest in renting the facility.
Within the vicinity is a proposed Avocado Factory from 2013 waiting for machines to become operational.
Overall, major steps in the value addition sector are eye-opening on various possibilities that await investors.
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Kisii Banana Factory is a dream come true for most farmers. We can only trust the county to deliver the project up to expectations.