Over 30 young single mothers in Kisii County are benefiting from training and earnings offered by a banana processing plant which works with farmers to reduce post-harvest wastes by doing value addition, thanks to the Youth Enterprise Fund.
The single mothers are based at the Boka Eats Banana Processing Plant, one of the major beneficiaries of the Youth Fund, a State Corporation under the Ministry of Cooperatives and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) development.
The Youth fund is one of the government’s Vision 2030’s flagship projects under the social pillar which aims to improve the quality of life for all Kenyans by targeting a cross-section of human and social welfare projects and programmes.
The objective of the Social Pillar, according to Kisii County Youth Enterprise Fund Coordinator, Aatos Mogoi is investing in the people of Kenya with specific aim to enabling gender and children’s social development, good health, education, training and proper housing among others.
CEO and founder of Boka Eats Sarah Onchangu, said the reason for opening the company was because she found a gap in banana farming as most farmers got bumper harvest but faced losses especially when there was less demand for the product.
“We are a group of 36 workers of which 90 per cent are young mothers of age 18 to 35, from Gusii region, whom we are also training to start their own enterprises,” Onchangu states.
According to the CEO, Boka Eats was the formalisation of the Boka Youth Manufacturing Company, dealing with purchase of banana produce from farmers before processing them to make banana flour, banana crisps, banana bread and cakes, banana wines and also among other products for sale.
Waste products are used to make animal feeds to minimise waste in a bid to ensure a clean environment.
She said the company started as a group of five members who received their first funding from the Youth Enterprise to tune of sh100,000 startup loan which they paid gradually before it was increased to Sh200,000 and later Sh 400,000 which has already been paid in anticipation for Sh 800,000 by the end of this April.
“The banana flour is 100 per cent natural from organic bananas with high nutrition value that is good for people with high blood pressure and lactating mothers among other people, having also been found to contain high fiber, no preservatives, no additional ingredients and is
gluten free,” said Onchangu.
Onchangu lauded the Youth Enterprise Fund for helping them attain confidence to seek further support from the European Union, Kisii County Government, Women Enterprise Fund, Standard Chartered Bank and the National Government Affirmative Action Fund.
Mr Elias Mabiria, one of the only two men in the company is a teacher and one of the founders of the Boka Eats. Mabiria educates the youth on the banana value addition process before any of them commences their own enterprises or work.
He said that despite their success in manufacturing new and unique products like banana bread, porridge floor and banana jam, they have challenges in establishing a market for their commodities.
Mabiria appealed to the government to help them find a bigger market including for export to enable the organisation to expand and assist many more youths from the region and beyond.
Other institutions that have benefited from the Youth Enterprise Fund is the Citizen College which is based in Keroka, and Kressmat, a Mini supermarket based in Mwembe in the outskirts of Kisii town.
Citizen College, which was registered in 2017 by TVET, was started by 13 members in 2014 as the Great Achievers Youth Group. The youth group grew to the rebrand itself as Great Achievers Company that deals in ICT training, biometrics and CCTV installation.
They received their first funding from the youth enterprise fund totaling Sh50,000 which grew gradually after repayment to Sh400,000 currently being serviced.
“The college has an enrolment of 256 students at the moment and at least 2,000 students have graduated from the institution thanks to the interest free loan from Youth Enterprise Fund,” said Moses Nyangena, the director of the institution.
Mr Nyangena, however, notes the institution premises is small to accommodate many more students owing to the high demand especially after receiving TVET registration.
He appealed for help to build a bigger institution that will be able to accommodate more students and offer more courses, especially the hands-on skills to youths.
On the other hand, Kressmat Mwembe Mini supermarket was started in 2016 by Mr Rogers Nyambane who manages the retail outlet. Nyambane said that they initially supplied big enterprises in town which took goods and could pay later, but the business struggled with
no profits due to low market demand.
They therefore got an opportunity to access the Youth Enterprise Fund amounting Sh 1 million which they are now servicing and this enabled them to revamp their mini supermarket.
“The business thrived and we managed to employ up to four youths from the area,” Nyambane said.
He however decried the challenges caused by Covid-19 pandemic which reduced the gains due to the high cost of living.
Mogoi, now urges the youth to seek the youth fund where they will be trained and funded to startup businesses.
“The fund has a mandate in Entrepreneurship training, mobilisation of youths to form groups, providing youth with business development ideas and giving youth’s loans to startup businesses,” explained Mogoi.
In Kisii, he said, the youth fund has managed to give up to Sh 350 million to youths in the county since it was established.
He said the management of the fund in partnership with the Nottingham University facilitates a programme known as comprehensive entrepreneurship forum which trains and teaches the county coordinators, various youth entrepreneurs in various stages that meet
the needs of young people.
The Fund provides youths with two types of loans that is the individual loan which ranges between Sh50,000 to Sh5 million and group loans to a startup of Sh100,000 increasing gradually when repaid up to Sh1 million.
They also provide market support, trading premises, linkages with big enterprises, business development services, and help youths obtain jobs abroad. Mogoi urged youths to desist from looking for white color jobs saying they were scarce world over.
By Martin Ndichu and Jane Naitore