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Banana wine, crisps making promises bright future to college dropout

Nyangorora Banana Processing Askah Omiso
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In 2004 Askah Omiso Nyakwara dropped out of college due to lack of school fees. She would later delve into banana value addition to make crisps and wine among other products something that has seen her start her own company besides working with over 500 farmers.

However, the journey has not been easy for the young entrepreneur as she had to start from scratch given she comes from a poor background.

“After school I came back home and started deep frying and salting bananas. I sold the product to people in my village, including primary school pupils making Sh1,200 from the first bunch of bananas I bought at Sh500,” said Askah.

She then realised that the majority of the people who tasted the product were so impressed and that is where her journey as banana crisps and wine manufacturer began even though all she had was a certificate in business management from Superior College in Kisumu.

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As she continued with her deep-frying and salting bananas business, Askah would devote some of her time to do a research on banana value addition and marketing in Kenya and beyond something she says took her four years.

“Making other products out of bananas for commercial purposes require an extensive background knowledge on banana production, value addition processes and marketing in order for it to be a success,” said the 37-year-old entrepreneur.

In May 2013, she started her company, Nyangorora Banana Processing Ltd and approached the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (Kirdi) Nyamira branch to use the institute’s facilities to start processing banana crisps.

The company would then make between 2,000 to 3,000 kilos of crisps per month.

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Unfortunately, after the company established itself, some individuals who worked as a company approached Askah for a tender to distribute Nyangorora products to other retail outlets and shops which they were awarded on the basis that they were to make payments after the products were bought.

After sometime the distributors vanished with all the money plus the products and tracing them became so difficult that the company had to adjust itself to remain in the business.

“Though it was a big blow because we lost cash and customer connections, it did not discourage us from employing other means of remaining relevant in the industry by incorporating new products such as drying and crushing bananas to produce flour for porridge, bread and scorns baking and cooking mandazis and chapatis,” said Askah.

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As a boost to her business, in April 2016 she won Sh1 million during Kisii Entrepreneurship Summit for her banana value addition effort. This has enabled her to expand her venture.

Today, the company is also processing 100-500 litres of banana wine, a tonne of flour per day and maintaining the 2,000-3,000 kilos of crisps per month which is sold within Kisii and Nyamira counties.

In addition, the company has opened 36 banana collection centres for farmers, 24 in Nyamira and 12 in Kisii to buy different banana varieties such as Uganda green for flour making, Ng’ombe grade one for crisps and Williams and dwarf Cavendish for wine and juice making.

The venture has brought ready market for the growers. Farmers in the region have for long protested poor banana prices. A bunch sells for as little as Sh100.

“Brokers buy a bunch of the produce from farmers for Sh100. This is very discouraging to the hardworking farmers. But with our approach, we offer farmers more,” said Askah.

Her challenge at the moment is lack of their own facilities as the KIRDI equipment are used by other people making them fully available.

“We welcome investors who would like to work with us to move the business to the next level and to set our own plant for steady production.”

Askah can be reached on +254712113021

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