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Food processing company to add value to locally-grown cassava

Gladys Mwangi’s view of the cassava crop is beyond that of an orphaned crop for rural, poor African farmers.

As the founder of GIRAYS Limited, this full time farmer has found a niche processing cassava into flour, starch and animal feed and sees a bright future for Kenyan cassava farmers and processors like herself.

Cassava flour is not a common commodity in the market, but it is rapidly gaining popularity among the gluten free community. Why? Not only does this gluten free flour look like traditional wheat flour, but it acts in the same way  when cooking or baking..

Whether you’re whipping up a batch of gluten free cookies or trying something a little more complicated, cassava flour is a versatile option worth exploring.

As urban Kenyans become more health conscious in their diets, demand in mainstream supermarkets for traditional foods like cassava has increased.

The company hopes to produce a signature cassava flour by January 2021. “We have already contracted 450 farmers from Kitui whom we shall train on the best cassava farming practices,” Gladys said.

The member of the Agribiz program has been in the farming industry since she left school. Her inspiration to delve into farming came to her while she was  running errands in Marikiti market, she met a friend who introduced her to farming and made her value the ‘dirty work’.

GIRAYS Limited originally began as a  supplier of fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits to local restaurants and hotels. The impact of the pandemic has forced Gladys to change the vision of the company.

With the dependence on restaurants and hotels, to buy our supplies, which were forcefully closed  during the lockdown, our business went drastically down. We had to reduce our employees from six to two as we could not sustain them, says Gladys .

She added that the frustrations led to the birth of a new idea,  processed cassava flour.

“Cassava is an indigenous crop that has been negated to the poor farmer. The advantage is that the demand for the crop has grown spontaneously.”

“Cassava matures for harvest in six month. It is a drought-resistant crop not very hard to care for in the farm, but in Kenya people are dying of hunger due to overreliance on maize as a staple. That is why I want to process it,” she said.

The enterprise shall buy the cassava from farmers, dry and process it into flour. This flour will then be distributed to retailers and wholesalers across the country.

She also notes that the Agribiz program will enable them to install milling stations and dryers in Kitui County where they will run the project.

The enterprise hopes to create job opportunities for the youth and ensure financial stability for the local farmers.