Banana crop farmers in Kisii County are set to reap big from the crop after construction of the first banana processing factory whose foundation was laid last week.
The Kisii County Governor, James Ongwae joined hands with the Devolution Cabinet Secretary (CS), Eugene Wamalwa and the European Union (EU) Head of Macroeconomics, Vincent De Boer in laying the foundation stone for the first Kisii County Banana Factory.
The project has been jointly mooted through the EU funded ‘Strengthening the banana value chain project’ under the Instruments for Devolution Advice and Support (IDEAS-Kenya) programme and the Kisii County Government.
The EU has granted the county Sh.110 million for the banana value chain project with the county government giving Sh.60 million to establish the factory at a site within the Kisii Agriculture Training Centre land.
Besides the construction of the banana processing plant, the project involves the capacity building for farmers, agriculture extension officers and supply of high-quality commercial banana variety suckers to enhance production.
Wamalwa observed that the banana processing project was set to alleviate the suffering of farmers in the hands of middlemen who exploited them by buying the produce at a throw away price.
He said the banana project will create employment and spur local economic development not only for the county but also the country to ensure realization of the Big Four agenda.
“As minister for Devolution, I am proud of the development progress in Kisii and hope residents will benefit from the infrastructure including the state of the art medical equipment and other health infrastructure launched by the president recently,” said Wamalwa.
The CS reiterated the commitment of the national Government in helping expand the Gusii stadium to meet international standards, noting that next year, the County will host one National Day Celebrations.
De Boer commended the county for being among the 15 counties that received funding from IDEAS programs to strengthen the banana value chain in Kisii County.
“In efforts to support devolution, the EU came up with the IDEAS programme in order to increase economic activities and productivity in counties. We also desire to add value as well as help farmers access market for their products,” said Boer.
Ongwae thanked the European Union for funding the project, saying it will contribute towards improved socio-economic development in the county as well as enhancing value addition through banana processing for improved income and employment.
“Kisii County is an agriculture driven economy and we are looking forward to the day the products of this project would become a meal, miles away in London, Rome or Berlin among other places in the world,” said Ongwae.
Ongwae said, the project is focused on addressing gaps in the Kisii County Banana Value Chain for local Economic Development in line with Vision 2030, the Big Four Agenda and the Kisii County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP.)
He urged local farmers and those from Kisii, Nyamira, Bomet, Homa Bay, Migori and the lower reaches of Narok County to step up their banana crop production to support the project.
The Permanent Secretary for State Department for Devolution, Charles Sunkuli, Deputy Governor, Joash Maangi among other senior government officers graced the occasion.
Governor Ongwae said the project targets over 11,000 farmers in the county in an engagement aimed at ultimately training all farmers in the county on best practices in banana production to support industry.
“We will establish three green banana produce collection centres in each ward thus creating employment opportunities for our youth,” he said.
Residents have been looking forward to banana factory which can churn out a number of products, including banana powder, hair pieces, crisps and wine among others.
One Banana farmer, Godfrey Nyakundi said value addition to the banana produce will increase the shelf-life of bananas thus guaranteeing farmers more returns on their crop.
Ongwae said the venture had the potential to turn around the local economy, enhancing food security and manufacturing as espoused in the Big 4 agenda.
Others present were the Permanent Secretary for State Department for Devolution, Charles Sunkuli and Deputy Governor Joash Maangi among others.
By Jane Naitore