As part of this meeting, the participants of GLDC Science Meeting also went to the Groundnut Processing Unit of Greenforest Foods Limited at Embakasi in Nairobi, Kenya. Mr Matheka Athanas, Founder and CEO of Greenforest Foods Limited demonstrated the entire process to the delegation, right from shelling to packaging. “This sheller can shell five tons of groundnuts in an hour,” he said, pointing towards the big sheller. Recently, during his visit to Germany he met buyers who have expressed a desire to buy 1000 metric tons of groundnuts.
“When you walk inside this place, there is not much space. Embakasi is very congested. I started here with two employees, today I have forty”, Athanas Matheka says, smiling from ear to ear. Embakasi is a tiny division in Nairobi which is not only famous for its Kenyan celebrities, but is also known for lots of factories and godowns. Mr Athanas Matheka started Greenforest Foods Limited from Emayian Godowns at Embakasi, quitting his cushy marketing job at Unilever. Today, Greenforest Honey is one of the leading brands in the country and their Greenforest Groundnut brand is fast catching up.
Mr Athanas procures most of his honey from rural Kenya and Tanzania. It was during one of these travels he realized that there is a huge potential waiting to be unearthed in groundnuts as well. He can do to groundnuts, what he has been doing with honey. Buy raw honey from the farmers, process it in his factory at Embakasi and sell it in the market. “The market is very big and there is a real opportunity to work with the Institutions, Universities and other organizations doing research on groundnuts. Everybody should come on board as everyone wins, including farmers and consumers,” Athanas Matheka stressed.
Most of the groundnuts in Kenya are imported from Uganda, Malawi and Tanzania, even though the country has a very conducive climate to produce enough groundnuts to meet its internal demand. However, the production of groundnuts in the country is plagued with lots of challenges. The local varieties in Kenya are low yielding and are prone to diseases. Moreover, the farmers have very limited access to the markets and face tremendous hurdles in storing the harvested crop. Credit from the banks and other institutions is almost negligible.
“We have introduced high yielding varieties of groundnuts which are less susceptible to the diseases. One of the major issues in groundnut farming in Kenya is Aflatoxin contamination that prevents export of groundnuts outside the country. We are trying to address that as well,” said Dr Ganga Rao, Principal Scientist (Breeder), ICRISAT. He further added that ICRISAT, with the support from GLDC, is trying to increase the production of groundnuts in the country by providing good quality seeds and promoting healthy ergonomic practices, that includes quality grain production.
As part of the partnership development within the value chain, ICRISAT linked the farmers with Matheka’s Greenforest Foods Limited. “After meeting with ICRISAT, we are now working with lots of farmers in dry areas,” Matheka added.
In this win-win situation, the partnership has given farmers assured market for their produce, while reducing the marketing and transaction costs. For Greenforest Foods Limited, it has ensured supply of groundnuts with quality, at the right time and lesser cost. Currently, Greenforest Foods Limited is selling their groundnuts to big retail companies, airlines and many other organizations. “We also realized that there were lot of issues regarding aflatoxin contamination as people were shelling with hands so we bought sheller,” Matheka said. The processing unit is well equipped with automated sorting systems to packaging machines.
“We are also building the capacities of young people operating on our value chain as this will help us to enhance our returns,” Matheka said. In near future, Greenforest Foods Limited is planning to buy their own place and build their own godowns. We will work with as many farmers as we can. We will expand the project, he added.
As the transformation continues, GLDC will also continue to support underperforming agri-food systems in the target ecologies of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa into well-functioning systems.