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Former Kiharu MP now mango farmer

A mango tree. INset: Former Kiharu MP, Mwangi Muturi is now a farmer.

A mango tree. INset: Former Kiharu MP, Mwangi Muturi is now a farmer.

Oversupply of mangoes in the market has denied many farmers an opportunity to earn from their effort. As a result, some of the farmers in Murang’a have come up with new ways to add value to their mangoes to fetch better prices and ensure continued supply of the fruit even after the season. Former Kiharu MP, Mwangi Muturi, has his eyes set on mango farming and is using new technology to make mango crisps.

He says after experiencing massive wastage and losses in previous seasons due to lack of market, he decided to buy a drier which he uses to dry mango slices for export. “During the peak season, it is hard for any farmer to make good returns. but I think this new technology is going to help me boost my income” he says.

He uses a simple yet effective technology using a special type of polythene paper that traps heat warming the inside to the required temperature. If the temperature exceeds it is regulated by opening small holes to ensure the mango crisps don’t burn. The process requires a well ripened mango chopped in thin slices after which it is dried at 55 degree temperature for two days.

The former MP said farmers have for a long time been at the mercy of brokers who buy at a throw-away price of Sh4 per mango. He said a kilo of dried mango flakes, which is made up of around 12 mangoes fetches almost 10 times more. While encouraging mango farmers to embark on value-addition, Muturi says he has now been able to create employment for eight people at his farm. He started farming mangoes in 2001 for export, but the process became difficult for small-scale farmers due to stringent rules. The former MP says the prospects of his 580 mango trees look bright.

He also grows cassava, pineapples, bananas and paw paws most on his farm. Muturi also said he plans to expand his value-addition business to other farmers in the semi-arid Kambirwa area where his farm is located. He says this is part of initiative to enhance food security as dried foods have a longer shelf life than raw ones. “I am planning to expand my project to incorporate other foodstuff for value addition as well as boosting food security in the neighbourhood,” he remarked.

According to Lucy Wamaitha, who oversees the value addition at the farm, dried mangoes are sweeter than fresh ones and can stay on shelves for up to six months. She says no preservatives are added to the crisp and they retain their natural taste as they don’t undergo any chemical treatment. “We only dry the fruits for two days at a certain temperature to drain the juice and this ensures a longer life span” she says. “The only condition one has to observe it to keep the mango chips dry for them to stay in good condition for a longer period of time” she says.

-The People

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