Mango farmers in the Kerio Valley region along the West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet border have a reason to smile after the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) completed a Kshs 80 million processing plant.
The plant stationed at Tot in Marakwet East is set to be a hit, with mango juice processing set to receive a boost. The processor is expected to enhance value addition and provide a market for mangoes grown in Kerio Valley.
The development is a reprieve for mango producers, who have been incurring heavy losses due to poor marketing strategies aggravated by a poor road network linking Endo, Sambirir, Arror, Soy, Chesegon and Lomut producing zones and market centers.
Other challenges the farmers face include the fact that fruits go to waste while those that reach the market fetch poor prices due to poor quality after hours of transport hitches.
Middlemen have been exploiting desperate farmers, buying their mangoes for as little as Kshs 100 per sack instead of Kshs 1,000 at the minimum.
The factory, with a capacity of processing over 30 tonnes of mangoes a day, will offer farmers the much-needed reprieve.
KVDA Managing Director Sammy Naporos who on Thursday visited the factory at Tot with the authority’s board of directors said that KVDA will use Kshs 60 million to buy mangoes from farmers in West Pokot and Elgeyo Markwet this financial year.
“A majority of farmers export raw products, making them not benefit from the value chain but this factory will turn around their fortunes. The plant also has the capacity to process pawpaws and watermelons which I have been informed do well in the Kerio Valley,” said Naporos.
He said the challenge is now on the farmers to increase production by planting more varieties of high quality mangoes to meet the international standards.
“We expect farmers to get more than Kshs 80 million annually at the optimum capacity of the plant and our focus is to cushion farmers against losses through adding value to their fruits,” said Naporos.
“We hope that between 3 to 4 years, we shall be able to generate up to Kshs. 80 million annually because we have the raw materials, technology and human resource,” he said.
He added that the plant will benefit farmers and institutions in terms of revenue generation to support other programs.
He said that Kerio valley is the leading region in terms of mangoes production.
“We are hitting the market and our main market for the mango juice is Khetia’s supermarket .We have also stocked our juices in our honey shops in our areas of operation,” he said.
Naporos noted that the venture goes in line with the government’s big four agenda in terms of promoting industrialization in ASAL areas and helping to improve livelihoods and income.
KVDA Chairman Mr. Jackson Kiptanui said the mango factory will provide employment and income for youths.
“We shall expand the factory to accommodate other incomes. The region is endowed with good climate(for agriculture),” he said. Kiptanui said that they shall support the community in buying the mangoes and value addition.
Kevin Kemboi, a mango farmer, said despite the region producing some of the juiciest mangoes the locals have nothing to show for it.
“We usually experience a glut each season which gives an opportunity to middlemen and traders to buy the produce at poor prices further pushing the farmers into misery. But now that the factory is complete, we are sure we will reap better returns from the mangoes,” said Kemboi.
Pius Kipkeu, another farmer, lauded the project. “I am among the pioneers of mango farming in Kerio Valley but for all the decades in the farm, my life has never changed for the better. This factory is a godsend to us because we will receive better returns for our produce and turn around our lives,” said Mr Kipkeu.
Kipkeu said the farmers should aim to increase the acreage under the fruits to ensure the factory operates at optimum capacity, even during the off-season.
Mokoro Chief Justine Yego praised the factory as a game changer in the region that has been infamous for cattle rustling.
“This factory will give the locals an opportunity to diversify into fruit farming away from traditional livestock farming that has been a source of insecurity in Kerio Valley,” said Yego.