JKUAT develops technology to boost coconut value chain

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020 00:00 |
Prof Bernard Ikua (second right) assisting a member of Msambweni Coconut Producers to operate the dehusker as Dr Florence Kaibi (third right) looks on. Photo/PD/COURTESY

Patrick Amunavi

The quest to upscale processing and production of quality coconut-based value added products by small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) in the Coast region, has received a major boost from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) which has developed a number of low-cost gender-sensitive technologies. 

The simple to operate technological innovations – the coconut dehusker, charcoal briquetting machine and a stirrer, were developed and fabricated by Manufacturing Research Chair’s Tooling and Machineries stream to strengthen the coconut value chains in Kenya.

Dr Florence Kaibi, Director of Nuts and Oil Crops Directorate (NOCD), acknowledged JKUAT researchers for developing the technologies – three dehusking machines and a Briquetting machine – that will greatly benefit four SMEs – Lola Rako and Jophina women groups based in Kwale and Mombasa counties respectively, as well as Cocovita Limited and Msambweni Coconut Producers in Kilifi and Kwale. 

Speaking before handing over the technologies to the SMEs on October 26 – 27, Kaibi, termed the new development “a key milestone in coconut value addition,” adding, the technologies will enable the SMEs to increase value addition. 

“Up to date, processors utilize only 25 percent of the total available coconuts, leaving the country with an excess supply of an estimated 100 million pieces,“she said.  

Kaibi said “the coconut sub-sector supports more than 150,000 households and has the potential of contributing slightly over Sh25 billion annually to the country’s GDP.”

Inherent challenges

However, due to inherent challenges, the exploited value of the sub-sector currently stands at a mere Sh13 billion, translating into only about 52 percent of the potential GDP value of the Sh25 billion, Dr Kaibi, said.

Factors that have contributed to the low sub-sector GDP value include; low coconut tree population, high number of old and senile trees, pests and diseases, low productivity due to lack of improved varieties, low level of value addition, poor marketing of coconuts and coconut products and limited research on the crop.

“Although no breakthrough has been achieved so far in terms of development of improved coconut variety for successful transfer and adoption by farmers,” the Director was optimistic of better prospects, pointing out current research initiatives by JKUAT researchers led by Prof Aggrey Nyende at the Institute of Biotechnology Research.

She said: “Last year, over 2,500 India-sourced coconut hybrid seedlings were distributed to farmers, noting it will provide local hybrid material for seed multiplication in the future.”

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