While cassavas are important source of food for millions of people, it is often considered a basic and unexciting ingredient.
However, Juliet Oduor has found a way to add value to cassava by using it to make pancakes, cakes and chapatis.
The idea started when she discovered that her son was allergic to gluten, proteins found in grains like wheat, barley and rice.
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Here is her story as told by WoK.
In her household, Juliet and her growing family ate a lot of wheat until her second-born son put a stop to it.
In an interview with Standard, she noted that the young one developed severe eczema that forced him to turn to gluten-free diet.
After consultations and research into the same, she had to keep away grains such as wheat, barley and rice, dairy and eggs from her son.
“As he was growing, it became harder to keep him away from wheat as he could see what we were eating and he would want to eat the same,” Juliet said.
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Juliet started looking for gluten-free flour, but they were expensive and those available were mainly used to make porridge and ugali.
She managed to buy the flour which she would use to make pancakes while trying other alternatives such as sorghum, millet and cassava.
It worked out for her, and she started baking gluten-free cakes for her sons and her friends who reacted to gluten.
In no time, orders for gluten-free products started streaming in.
“I used to buy the flours and then create the blend, but then in the market, the quality was not consistent in terms of colour, taste, and appearance
“I had to create my own blend to assure the quality because food is very sensitive in terms of quality,” Juliey who was thinking about setting a business at that particular time said.
She joined Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI) to learn about making flour.
After completion of her training, she would make the flours from the institutions shared facilities, repackage them and sell.
However, Juliet explained that, she was limited because the facility was shared and it followed a strict schedule.
“In 2019, I mainly did my production from KIRDI but because it was a shared facility, I couldn’t just go in any day any time and do production
“There was a schedule to follow and I knew if I wanted my business to grow, I had to find a place where I could produce consistently based on demand,” she said.
To beat the challenges and meet the customers’ demands, Juliet signed up with Thundafund, a crowdfunding company, looking for funding to buy a drier.
She received Ksh 362,000 which she used to get the essentials for her business which he named, Blossom Health Essentials.
The company was established in February 2020, days before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Kenya but her business survived the pandemic.
She bounced back in 2021 and bought a second drier after receiving funding from the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) and the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs.
Juliet said that the company sources its raw materials from local farmers, and the production happens daily.
“Previously farmers have had organisations that tell them to plant cassava with a promise to buy, but that never happens. We have been there since 2020 so we have built some trust and are having farmers willing to partner with us,” she said.
The cassava flour can be used to make ugali, chapati, bread, pancakes and cakes.
“Cassava is one of the crops that grow well there. Maize doesn’t, but people just plant it because everyone in the country plants maize
“I wanted to work with the farmers here for them to turn cassava into a cash crop because their complaint has been there is no ready market for that,” she added.
The company which employs four in Siaya and two in Nairobi stock up at Quickmart Supermarkets.
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