Farmers in Kisii county are set to reap maximum benefits from their crop following the initiation banana processing factory in the area.
The project has been jointly mooted through the EU funded 'Strenghtening the banana value chain project' under the Instruments for Devolution Advice and Support (IDEAS-Kenya) programme and the Kisii County Government.
Kisii County Governor James Ongwae yesterday joined hands with Devolution 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 EU has granted the county Sh.110 million for the banana value chain project with the county government giving a counter fund of Sh.60million 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.
Kisii is well known in the area of banana production and the county government has already facilitated the registration of a banana farmers' cooperative society with an initial membership of 2250 farmers,50 from each of the 45 wards.
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.
Already a total of 78, 000 high quality commercial banana suckers have been issued to the farmers for planting, while another 100,000 suckers will be issued in the next planting season.
“We will establish 3 green banana produce collection centres in each ward thus creating employment opportunities for our youth.
Ongwae said that once operational, the banana factory is poised to churn out a number of products including banana powder, hair pieces, crisps and wine among others.
He underscored the move to add value to the banana produce saying it will go a long way in increasing the shelf-life of bananas thus guaranteeing farmers more returns on their crop.
Ongwae urged farmers and all county residents to plant more bananas and step up production to sustain the industry which he observed had the potential to turn around the local economy.
He noted that the project also addresses both the aspect of enhancing food security and manufacturing as espoused in the Big 4 agenda.
On his part, Wamalwa observed that the banana processing project was set to alleviate the suffering farmers in the area had endured in the hands of middlemen who exploited them by buying the produce at a throw away price.
He hailed Ongwae for initiating the project and noted that Kisii County under the leadership had witnessed fruits of devolution given the numerous development projects so far initiated.
He cited improved road network,the Gusii stadium, the proposed soapstone value addition centre and banana value chain programme.
“As minister for devolution,I am proud of the development progress in Kisii. Whenever I visit the county, I can’t fail to observer fruits of devolution which are well seen to everyone. Recently, I was here with President Uhuru Kenyatta and we saw a stadium that is well built. The President also launched state of the art medical equipment and other health infrastructure that are of a great benefit to this region,” observed Wamalwa.
The CS reiterated the commitment of the national Government in helping expand the Gusii stadium to meet international standards saying next year, the County will host one of the national day celebrations.
“The banana project we have launched here today will create employment and spur local economic development not only for the county but also the country in general. Our target is to see how we can strengthen counties to ensure realization of the Big Four agenda”, Wamalwa said.
Head of Macroeconomics and Governance in the European Union Delegation to Kenya Vincent 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 donor community 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. Indeed, banana is one of the most important food and cash crops sustaining many livelihoods in the region. 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.
He 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.)
“Upon completion, we shall have a running factory producing banana flour, wine, fibre, fertilizer, artificial hair pieces among other products,” observed Ongwae.
He urged local farmers and those from Kisii, Nyamira, Bomet, Homabay, 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.