Farmers in Kenya are supplying a local agri-processing company with millet, groundnuts and honey to produce nutritious snacks and strengthen local value chains.
Established in 2015 by Irene Ikarede Etyang, Akimaa Africa blends locally-produced ingredients together, resulting in highly-nutritious snacks. Its Tasty Millet Meal Bar is high in protein, as well as several key minerals, including calcium, iron, phosphorus and zinc. “Obesity is on the rise in Kenya, and Africa at large,” Etyang explains. “My Tasty Millet Bar is therefore a good replacement for the sweet foods people like because it is low-fat and highly nutritious. The bar is also gluten free and has no added sugar, making it good for diabetics.”
The firm currently contracts over 200 farmers to produce and supply millet. Another 10 farmers provide groundnuts and two youth groups supply the bulk of the honey. “In our team, we have agronomists who have been instrumental in ensuring that we get the right raw materials as per our specifications,” states Etyang. She adds that the company has trained farmers on good agricultural practices and proper food handling. “Food quality and safety is key for us because we produce human food, and we are sure to adhere to food policies and legislations.”
The company has a small factory in Busia county and uses a milling machine to grind down the groundnuts and millet into flour and blend it together. “Our production capacity is 500 bars per day, retailing at Ksh 100 [€0.86] each,” Etyang says. The company’s customers are predominantly health-conscious urbanites, and demand is increasing. “The challenge we have is a lack of processing equipment; most of our production is manual,” she adds. “We hope to automate the process as we scale up.” Etyang states that this would also enable the company to begin to provide a wider range of products, including confectionery.
Gladys Emojong is one of the farmers supplying millet to the company and observes that most farmers had previously abandoned millet cultivation due to poor prices and the crop’s intensive labour requirements, but the company’s production has resuscitated its cultivation. Tabitha Apurut, another millet supplier for Akimaa Africa, explains that before she was introduced to Akimaa Africa by a friend, income from the crop was low. “I used to sell 1 kg of millet for Ksh 25-35 [€0.21-0.30] – mostly to middlemen – but now Akimaa Africa buys it at Ksh 100 [€0.86]. This has motivated me to grow more,” says the mother of five. Apurut, who cultivates millet on 1 ha, says she intends to lease more land to plant the crop and, since 2015, has earned approximately €680 from the crop each year.
Apurut also lauds the knowledge of good agricultural practices (GAPs) acquired through Akimaa, which have enabled her to improve her production and post-harvest handling. All of the farmers contracted to deliver their produce to Akima Africa are offered training on millet husbandry and GAPs relating to the use of fertilisers, pest control methods and post-harvest handling of their produce. Training is provided through extension visits, open days and demonstrations on farms.