Spurring Job Creation through Enhancing Competitiveness in Banana production

Posted: July 16, 2021
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R-L: Ms. Jane Ndung’u of Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Charles Wasike of the Royal Danish Embassy, Mr. Neils Osterberg the Managing Director Orana AS, Mr. Noah Meely – MESPT’s Board Chairman, the Royal Danish Embassy Ambassador H. E. Ole Thonke, Taita Taveta Deputy Governor H.E. Majala Mlagui and Hon. Davis Mwangoma, CEC Agriculture Taita Taveta county during the launch of the DMDP banana project in Taveta.

The County Government of Taita Taveta on Wednesday 30th June 2021 enjoined partners in a 5-year Danida Market Development Partnerships project (DMDP) launch. The project aims to further the development of banana value chain – a key source of livelihoods in the county. According to the Taita Taveta Deputy Governor H.E. Majala Mlagui, the banana crop is grown by over 17,000 households in the county for subsistence and commercial use.

The DMDP Banana Project

The Project titled “Spurring Job Creation in Kenya by Enhancing the Competitiveness of the Banana Sub Sector project targets 2,000 small holder farmers and will roll out interventions geared towards creation of over 500 direct decent jobs for the locals and engage over 1,200 service providers throughout the project cycle.

The project brings together the County Government of Taita Taveta, MESPT, Wanda Agriculture Group, Orana A/S and several financial institutions.

DMDP emphasizes on partnerships which are beneficial to small holder farmers of Taveta. It brings commercial and non-commercial actors together in a partnership to promote sustainable business development and employment opportunities contributing to SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) and SDG 17 (Partnerships for Sustainable Development).

DANIDA keen on partnership projects

The Royal Danish ambassador H.E. Ole Thonke said Denmark is committed to supporting the project which is specially designed to allow partnerships contributing towards attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

He noted that the project supports banana farmers by stimulating job opportunities through investments in the banana value chain which is key to improved livelihood for many households in Taveta.

Job creation and livelihood enhancement helps spur economic growth, fosters peace, and upholds human dignity.

The potential of the banana sub-sector

“The popularity of the crop makes it a good cash crop and precisely the reason the DMDP banana project was designed to support the farmers tap into its potential. While that might sound assuring, it is however the partnerships emphasis in this project that makes it special and beneficial to small holder farmers of Taveta.” Said Noah Meely, MESPT Board chairman.

“We will closely work with all our partners the County government of Taita Taveta, Wanda Agriculture Group – the local partner to facilitate aggregation, management of the bananas supply chain, Orana A/S -the international Danish food & beverage multinational company to establish the banana pulp processing factory and financial institutions to facilitate farmers with the much-needed finances to increase their investment in agribusiness. Driven by this principle, MESPT has been promoting and providing sustainable solutions that enable beneficiaries to access capital, increase agricultural productivity and access to markets.” Added Noah.

The sub-sector investments through the project

The Taveta banana project will deliver a socially and environmentally responsible fruit pulp processing factory with an annual processing capacity estimated at 40,000 metric tons. Orana Managing Director, Niels Osterberg said his company is committed to industrial development of Taveta and that they will establish an environmental conscious banana factory that will create jobs and significantly reduce waste. He noted that the focus will be on organic bananas and that working with the DMDP consortium members, they will teach the local farmers “tricks” that will help them improve the yields.

The banana project is promoting Grand Nain banana variety which has a ready international market. The variety is exceptional as it grows from 6 to 8 feet tall and mostly preferred for commercial purposes because it produces fast, can produce many, large and very sweet fruits. The variety is also resistant to diseases and strong wind and is easy to care for.

Smallholder farmers in Taveta are also set to benefit from the construction of 6 banana aggregation centres which will provide more shared space not just for aggregating their produce but also for meeting, learning and knowledge transfer, a marketplace and leisure point, said Mr. Darmendra Oturi Wanda Agriculture chairman.

The project will leverage on an ICT system for efficient management of the supply chain, establish 40 farm estates, and a 300-acre organic farm which will be used as a learning and knowledge transfer centre for farmers in Taveta and beyond.

Tapping into the versatility of bananas

Bananas are among the world’s most versatile crops. Improving the productivity of these crops would contribute greatly to food security in kenya. Moreover, it is an economic boost through job creation. The list goes on and research has shown that banana is the world’s most widely known and distributed fruit and a great contributor to nutritional and food security needs. It is also a fruit that produces various products ranging from matoke, flour, crisps, canned slices, jam, jelly, puree, vinegar, wine, and beer, among others. The foliage and stems are used as cattle feed while the banana leaves are used for packing stuff and when dry can be used as roofing material and for making assorted products for home use.

The sub-sector employs 80 percent of the rural community in many of the banana growing communities. Countrywide, Taveta is currently second biggest producer of bananas after Meru.  According to Dr. Lusike Wasilwa, the Director Crop Systems at Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), Kenya is becoming a banana growing hub. Dr. Lusike Wasilwa called on Taveta residents to increase their banana production to reduce poverty through increased incomes and improved food and nutritional security.

“In 2020, an estimated 1.8 million tons of bananas were produced contributing KES 29 billion. It is the crop to invest in to reduce poverty through increased incomes and food security especially for women, children, youth and vulnerable groups. Said Dr. Wasilwa.

Ms. Jane Ndung’u, representative from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, National Government, noted the project will empower the locals by spurring economic growth.

Taita Taveta County committed to increase banana production

While officially launching the project, the Taita Taveta Deputy governor asserted that the County Government is committed to working closely with development partners with footprint in the county and the subsector. “We have been supporting farmers especially with banana seedlings hence the increased production. Through a partnership with the European Union, the county government is constructing the county banana processing plant which will expand the horticultural crop’s market and create jobs for the locals.” She noted that the county has a strategy to encourage banana farmers to increase banana production from 4,000 to 6,000 Ha leading to over 180 tonnes annually. Furthermore, efforts to support farmers will continue including the establishment of Taita Taveta Fruits Authority which will oversee the fruits value chain within the county.

The project aligns to the Country’s big 4 agenda on manufacturing and food security as well as the Taita Taveta County government’s integrated development plan (CIDP) on agricultural value chains development.