Farmers in Makueni County will benefit from a Sh210 million grain value addition factory funded by the World Bank through the Kenya support for Devolution Programme implemented by the Makueni County Government.
The factory that was initiated three years ago will oversee the processing of beans, pigeon peas, cowpeas and grams and packages so as to add value and increase income for the farmers and cushion them from exploitation of middlemen.
The revelations were made by the Executive Committee Member (ECM) of Agriculture, Irrigation, Livestock and Fisheries Development Mr. Nzioki King’ola during an inspection of the Makueni County Integrated Grain Value Addition Plant by the three governors from Ukambani region namely Dr. Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Charity Ngilu (Kitui and Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) at Makindu.
“The factory is 99 per cent complete and we intend to construct silos for storage in the next two weeks,” said King’ola while conducting the governors around the facility.
The ECM said that they target the local and external markets that are geared towards maximising profits that will benefit the farmers in the Ukambani region.
He further said that they will start buying grains from farmers through Farmers’ Cooperatives spread across the county.
“Through cooperatives, farmers will be mobilized to produce adequate pulses for the plant and also they will get collective access to farm inputs hence reap maximum profits and reduce exploitation by middlemen,” he said.
Speaking at the same function, the Plant Manager Mr. Maluka Waema said the factory has the production capacity of 2 metric tonnes per hour that translates to 32 metric tonnes per day and night shift.
“The plant will have a raw material storage area of 200 metric tonnes (3,300 bags of 90 kgs) with a 170 metric tonnes of (2000 bags of 90 Kgs) at the finished product storage area,” said Waema.
He further said that they are currently packaging the pulses in 50 Kgs- 100 Kgs before they start packaging for 1kg and 2kgs for supermarkets and wholesale outlets.
“We do value addition to the pulses through pre-cleaning, drying, cleaning and polishing in order to produce the best product in the market,” added Waema.
“The factory has now employed more than 15 people including seven engineers and eight casual workers and they are going to employ more people as the production increases,” added Waema.
According to data from the County department of Agriculture, over 230,000 hectares are put under pulse production every year with an average of 190,000 metric tonnes.
Makueni Governor Prof. Kivutha Kibwana said the project will offer the residents job opportunities through the value addition chain, repackaging, milling and blending of the flour from pulses.
“The project has a potential to create more job opportunities through value addition, repackaging, milling and blending of flour from the pulses,” said Kibwana adding that his administration is focused on changing people’s lives through developments.
He added that the factory is open for organized youths, women and cooperatives to bring their pulses and grains for value addition before selling them at higher prices at the markets.
On her part, Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu lauded the development project saying that the initiative comes as result of good leadership from the county.
“This project is as a result of good leadership from Governor Kibwana, Value addition at this factory will enable our pulses to fetch good prices hence reducing poverty in Ukambani,” said Ngilu.
Speaking at the same event, Machakos Governor Dr. Alfred Mutua congratulated Kibwana for the milestone development in the area.
“This is what our people want, all the constituencies in Kenya should have a sh. 250 million factory to process different products in their area to create job opportunities,” said Mutua.
By Patrick Nyakundi and Ronald Rono