Askah Nyakwara is the founder of Nyangorora Banana Processors, a venture that she started with Ksh 2,000 only.
The group comprises of banana farmers from Kisii County.
The group ventured into the banana processing industry after a field study courtesy of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO).
Since its establishment, the processor has since benefited over 580 people and producing at least five banana products.
Here is the group’s story as told by WoK.
Banana processing venture
In 2010, Askah and other banana farmers got an opportunity to participate in a field study organized by KALRO.
After the successful training, she immediately started a banana processing venture.
Askah used Ksh 2,000 to buy cooking oil and bananas which she later sliced and deep fried to make banana crips.
Her first customers were mainly school going children.
After a while into the business, Askah registered the business, going by the name, Nyangorora Banana Youth Group.
She set up the business to improve the lives of small scale banana farmers and prove employment and development skills for the unemployed youth.
“Presently, we buy a specific, specially-cultured species for cooking, as well as dessert bananas from farming households mainly in Kisii and Nyamira Counties
“We offer fair trade prices since we can pay higher prices through our low-cost value add model,” Askah told Nation.
She also explained that they ventured into the business since most banana products in the Kenyan market were imported.
“Banana processing and waste management solutions could improve the lives of smallholder banana farmers, who contribute over 75 per cent of Kenya’s total output
“It can also fuel economic growth for communities by creating demand for new, value-add products reducing post-harvest loss,” Askah said.
The company produces banana crisps, flour, baked banana bread, wine and fibre which trade under the brand ‘Ritoke’.
Askah also explained that they can also produce beer, soap and juice if they decide to expand their venture.
“Although we produce banana products exclusively, we have the knowledge and equipment to make similar products with different locally-sourced feedstock, such as sweet potato and pumpkin
“This competency and availability of local feedstock offer options for future expansion of our product portfolio beyond bananas,” she said.
The group is now targeting the national market, although their long-term goal is to reach the export market.
The processor produces 5,500 grams of banana crisps per hour with the production involving six to 10 workers daily.
They source their bananas from Kisii and Nyamira counties.
“In a day, we buy 500kgs of bananas, and produce between 50 to 55kgs of banana crisps per a day, which consume around 250kgs of raw bananas – the rest of the bananas are used to process flour while the riper ones are pureed,” Askah said.
Making banana crisps, wine and other products
To make crisps, bananas are separated from the bunch, inspected for quality, peeled, cut before they’re fried and packaged.
They sell from Ksh 30 for 50 grams to Ksh 60 for 100 grams.
To make wine, Askah explained that bananas are ripened until they reach a sugar content of 18 to 19 percent before they are peeled, sliced, boiled, and then sugar is added.
They are the put in fermentation tanks and wine yeast is added and allowed to stay for around 21 days.
A bottle of wine at Ksh 800 for 750ml.
They also make baby foods where ripe bananas are sliced, dried on the solar driers, milled into powder and the powder mixed with milk powder and soy powder.
The banana puree sells at Ksh 250 for 600ml while banana flour retails at Ksh 300 per kilo and Ksh 60 for 400 grams of banana bread.
The business has received awards which include first place at the World Food Day 2014.
They also received Women in Business, East Africa first Place, 2015, Best Innovator 2016 and first place Kenya, Smart Innovator, 2016.