ProxyCom limited, an IT company which was originally formed to only offer ICT services but has turned out to empower youth and women through its agribusiness department is currently looking for additional markets for arrowroots, a produce they adopted in 2016 after abandoning sugarcane farming.
The Homa Bay County based company was founded in 2008 by three friends James Odhiambo, Japheth Abudo and Richard Aluoch who are all the firm’s directors. After offering some ICT services from 2009 to 2015 which saw the firm established itself, some youth and women could approach them looking for jobs and handouts making it a big challenge to the trio.
“We therefore thought of something which could accommodate them all and help them earn a leaving as some of them were not well educated and if they did, they were not IT specialist making it difficult for our company to absorb them,” said James Odhiambo, the companydirector in charge of its agribusiness wing.
Beginning 2016, the company begun with some five youth and four women and hired seven acres of land, intercropped sugarcane, maize and beans in five and the remaining two under cereals. After the first season they harvested only three sacks maize worth Sh6,300 which if compared to Sh5000 investment per acre was a devastating.
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The company then decided to use the seven acres for cane farming and in 2017 the acreage under the produce was increased from seven to 30 as sugarcane milers in the region were promising good market.
However, this was not to be. After 18 months wait, the period sugarcane take to mature, ProxyCom failed to secure favourable supply contract with the millers something which forced them to try looking for an alternative market by making jaggery (sukari nguru).
“We got an exporter in Nairobi who promised to buy tonnes of jiggery form us and our work was to manufacture the product and transport to him,” said Odhiambo.
But just before the company could start investing in jiggery production, the exporter went missing leaving the farmers stranded with local market options which offer poor prices.
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Tired of sugarcane market challenges, the company last year October decided to venture into arrowroots production after hiring 14 acres of land at Sh20,000 each for six years.
They grow the crop organically by use or livestock manure and using ash to control some common arrowroot diseases and balance the soil pH.
“We have realized that most consumers like produce raised organically as they do not have dangerous chemical residues. We have also discovered that there are no large scale arrowroot producers in Kenya as most of the produce come from Rwanda and Uganda,” said Odhiambo.
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Today ProxyCom is harvesting 200kg of arrowroots per week. They supply to a company in Nairobi while the rest they sell to open air markets which are not consistent and do not offer good prices.
“The number of youths we work with has increased from the five we started with to 20 while that of women has also risen from four to 17. The effort and passion they have in the arrowroot project after sugarcane challenges has enabled us improve our production and we are looking forward for more buyers,” said Odiambo.
These youth and women are drawn from Dhiwa Sub-county in Homa Bay County and Rongo Sub-county in Migori County.