Farmers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the coconut value chains at the Kenyan Coast have attributed lack of business skills, markets, value addition technologies; poor quality products and stiff competition from established processors and exploitation by Tanzanian brokers as major obstacles to the full exploitation of the coconut crop through value addition.
The farmers and coconut product processors from Kwale, Kilifi and Mombasa counties made the revelations during a three-day capacity building training organized by Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology researchers – currently implementing the 5-year Manufacturing Research Chair program on technological innovations for quality and productivity in the coconut sector.
The project is supported by the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI), and the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC), under the University Research Chairs program.
The coconut stakeholders at the training held, May 13 – 16, welcomed the contribution of JKUAT researchers which they said, would greatly boost their capacity to tap the coconut resource available at the Coast for wealth creation and improvement of livelihoods.
According to the Research Chair, Prof. Bernard Ikua, who presided over the official opening of the training, “the manufacturing research chair is emphasizing on innovations for the coconut value chain with a specific focus on various coconut products.”
The products include, “food and beverages, energy and biomass, textile and fibers, cosmetics and beauty products, tooling and machinery to support the manufacture of products.”
Prof. Ikua stated that JKUAT is strongly focused on improving productivity, efficiency and to lower production costs.” He further said, researchers conducted a survey at the grassroots that identified various challenges farmers and SMEs were facing including knowledge gaps which called for urgent intervention.
The program is billed to strengthen the coconut value chain in Kenya, given that the coconut crop is grown widely along the Kenyan coastline, but how to tap into its value-chain, has been a hard nut to crack, thus denying the country substantial economic returns through job creation and export earnings.
That is the elephant in the room that JKUAT researchers must confront and help the communities and the country reclaim the true value of the coconut industry.