Some of the products made from cassava roots. Photo courtecy.
Alex Ombuto, who stayed for about five years without a job now earns over Sh480,000 every year after finding the magic in cassava root which he has been adding value to and making nutritional porridge, crisps and snacks.
The 39 year old graduate from Kisumu Polytechnic as an electrical engineer had expected to secure a job upon completing his course in 2011 only to land on raw employment deals that made him lose hope and start cassava farming and later ventured in value addition on the crop.
“I had no idea that the cassava root I always perceived as a subsistence crop for many rural families in Kenya could be used for making affordable crisps, doughnuts, chips ,snacks, nutritional porridge and even ugali”, said Mr. Ombuto.
Since he introduced the idea to Kisumu residents, commercialisation of cassava has been tremendously gaining popularity and many entrepreneurs and farmers are embracing the root and its products.
The trend has picked up around the upmarket Kilimani in Kisumu town where the business is booming due to the high demand from Asians and Indians living in the region.
“Indians love homemade cassava crisps and doughnuts so much that they often flock my business premises in the evening to take some home”, said the resident of Kilimani estate.
His business targets schools, local hotels, offices, supermarkets and small retail shops.
“More often, industrial buyers are attracted by my homemade-level value addition that simply involves cleaning, chipping and drying which greatly reduces their production costs at their plants”, he said.
A doughnut goes for Sh10 and chapati Sh20. Cakes are sold for between Sh250 to Sh500 depending on the size and are baked on order, with his sales hitting Sh30,000 during social events such as wedings and birth day celebrations where he supplies the products on order.
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From his modest savings of sh3,000, Ombuto and his wife Florence Ombuto are now running a business with an annual turnover of Sh480, 000. They have also employed six workers whom they pay Sh250 per day.
The father of six now diversifies his business by buying more land to plant cassavas to reduce costs of purchasing the raw produce. He plans to expand business to reach the potential growth needs of many customers.
The price of his home-crisps ranges between Sh100 and Sh300, depending on quantity and size of the products. However, for his clients such as supermarkets and hotels which buys the producs, the cost depends on quantity purchased. Given their location, the couple enjoys monopoly.