On a mid-morning at Shabab area in the outskirts of Nakuru town. Gilbert Ndegwa is dressed on a white dust coat and a cream-white cap. It is time for him to process groundnuts, something he does every two-three days a week.
His is a story of love for the nuts, and passion for this business. For long, he says, he consumed groundnuts from local hawkers. However, he was often dissatisfied with the fact that nuts were sometimes burnt due to overcooking, or raw, due to undercooking.
“It was in quest for good quality groundnuts that I decided to venture into this business,” he says, adding that he processes an average of 150 kilograms of groundnuts every week.
On a plastic table, within his one-room processing space, are well arranged assorted groundnuts products. Some are readily roasted nuts packaged in either plastic bags or containers. Also on display are various flavours of peanut butter; plain; with honey; with honey, pumpkin seeds powder and stinging nettle root powder; and with pumpkin seeds powder and stinging nettle roots powder. The prices vary depending on the quantity and flavor, with the second last being the most expensive, at Sh750 per kilogram.
Ndegwa depends on two main machines, both of which he has assembled locally and by himself. The first one is the grinder, which he uses to make peanut butter, while the second is roaster, for roasting the nuts.
Despite having a ready market concentrated within Nakuru town and its environs, Ndegwa is concerned that he depends on imported nuts. “I usually source for the nuts from Nairobi, and am told they are farmed in Malawi,” he says.
Kenyan farmers, he adds, do not have good varieties of groundnuts as they are small in size and not rich in colour. The maroon-ish colour of imported nuts, coupled by their size and taste, makes them attractive to customers.
He hopes that the European Union (EU)-supported Market Access Upgrade Program (MARKUP) Kenya, will empower local farmers so that they can produce good quality groundnuts. “Farmers need to be advised on the right seeds to plant, and suitable farm inputs like fertilisers, so that they can produce high quality groundnuts,” notes Ndegwa
Additionally, he hopes to benefit from linkages with farmers, who may be producing good quality groundnuts, but lack market. “I hope that MARKUP Kenya will empower not only the farmers, but processors and other players across this value chain,” he says
MARKUP Kenya seeks to promote food safety and market competitiveness along groundnuts, macadamia, mango, French beans, snow peas, passion fruits, chilli, herbs and spices value chains.
The program is implemented in 12 counties across the country, by United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in partnership with the government and private sector.