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Man Retires Gracefully To Bring Hope To Kamwangi Farmers & People Living With Lifestyle Diseases.

Mundia and His First-Born Son Waweru during a Business Expo in Thika town.
The mere mention of the word "retirement", “retrenchment” or “sacking” sends chills down the spine of so many people. The thought of actually having to live in the uncertainty of what life will be like for you in the next stage is the greatest puzzle that many would be retirees find themselves in.

But that was never the case of Charles Mundia, a former employee of the Ministry of water, who retired a few years ago.

“A few months to my retirement, I pondered so much on what I would be doing in my sunset years. After some mind-boggling, I decided to carve out a new life in the farm as a personal pursuit rather than as a business. By then, money was not my major motivation but somehow I had that inner feeling that farming would eventually define my retirement years,” he said.

Mundia decided to concentrate on the traditional crops like cassava, bananas and sweet potatoes.
During the rainy season, he noted that farmers harvested a lot of this produce resulting to an overflow in the market. Their market price declined as the demand rose. This was when he toyed with the idea of value addition and solar drying his cassava and sweet potatoes. He also thought about making banana chips.

It was during one of those fine days that some officers from Grow Biointensive Agricultural Center of Kenya (G-BIACK), a community based organisation, bounced into his farm and got interested in what he was doing.

They agreed to train him on venturing and promoting bio-intensive Agriculture as an alternative way of farming. . He was trained on the use of locally available resources with minimum use of external resources which were economically viable, environmentally friendly and culturally acceptable. It is from here that Mundia intensively started working in the field of organic sustainable agriculture and value addition of his produce.

The skills he gained at G-BIACK helped him acquire extra income and enable him to comfortably cater for his family’s needs.

To achieve his goal, he decided to involve his three sons and daughter in the processing and marketing his value added products. This involved building processing plant in near his rural home in Kamwangi Division of Gatundu North Constituency, Kiambu County. They started drying the produce using solar driers and later grinding them into flour for sale.

As time went by, they learnt of the nutritional and health value of banana and sweet potato peels. They would dry them with the peels and grind them, eventually adding more value to the final product.
He later opened a hotel, Bamboo Hotel, in the trading centre where he specialised in serving organic foods only. Using the flour from these foods, the Mundias started selling organic uji, ugali and mandazi. They would later start selling banana and sweet potato chips.

“Our hotel has become so popular that even commuters using the highway stop over for some organic snack or lunch. Business is good since people know the value of organic foods. We never use any synthetic additives in our foods. For the uji, we use honey as a sweetener,” said Simon Waweru, Mundia’s first born son.

To demonstrate how this venture is viable, Waweru explained to us how value addition multiplied their profits threefold.

“A whole banana here goes for sh.200. We sell a single banana chip for sh.10. This translates to about sh.1,300 for the same banana when sold as chips.”

As demand for the product grew, they decided to bring on board neighbouring farmers to boost the supply and provide the much needed labour. This is when they formed Karure Agri-business Farmers Group. It is from this group that they intend to achieve their goal of serving the nation with rich organic produce.

“I have already approached the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) for capacity building on product and certification. We plan to pack and supply our products to supermarkets,” said Mundia, who currently is the group’s chairperson.

They are able to produce six-100kg bags of unga in a week and contend that with proper assistance and marketing, they can be able to serve even more bags.

Among the challenges the group is currently facing is the inaccessibility of affordable credit, especially from the national and county funds to grow to the next level. Without appropriate financing, these farmers are not only less able to invest in their operations but are also vulnerable to market volatility and unpredictable weather.

They also lack adequate infrastructure to access their target market, the urban retail stores which guarantee ready market for their products. They are therefore appealing to the authorities to improve available market facilities and also offer them platforms to popularise their products.

It is also a challenge to meet the demands of their market since some of these products especially the yellow sweet potatoes are only available in Kisii and Kagio, thereby limiting production. Other products are seasonal and are usually in short supply during their off-season.

Some of the medicinal value of their foods and drinks include;-

  •    The banana flour assists the body in the digestion of food thereby decreasing problems of acidity, ulcers and constipation.    
  • The sweet potato flour provides relief for arthritis and bronchitis.
  •     Their porridge helps to keep the blood pressure down, checks on the blood sugar and helps to keep blood fats in check. 
  •     The dry mulberry leaf powder is good for epileptic patients, highly effective in the management of kidney and liver problems as well as backache and bone problems.

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