Stanley Nyakwana Ongwae | February 2, 2020
Rather than sell raw sugar cane, Kenyan farmer Joseph Onsinyo has boosted his income by processing the canes into juice. Mr. Onsinyo bought a manual crusher that squeezes out up to 95 per cent of the juice, and sometimes adds garlic, ginger, beetroot, and lemon. He can sell a fully mature sugar cane for up to 20 Kenyan shillings, but the same cane brings him up to 150 shillings as juice. His quarter-acre sugar cane farm brings him with about 800,000 Kenyan shillings a season, much more than the 50,000 he receives for a quarter-acre of raw cane.
It’s about eight o’clock in the morning and Joseph Onsinyo is busy preparing sugar cane juice for his clients. He pushes pieces of sugar cane into a manual crusher and calls out to his assistant, “Hurry up, brother!”
His workmate quickly removes a plastic container under the crusher that is almost full to the brim, then pours the juice into a nearby 10-litre jerry can.
Mr. Onsinyo lives in Nyansiongo village in Nyamira County, in southwestern Kenya.70 metres away from Borabu Healthcare Center and very close to the main market. He is a sugar cane farmer who sells the juice mainly to sick people and to traders who conduct various businesses at the health centre.
Mr. Onsinyo uses a simple manual machine to crush and squeeze the sugar cane to extract the juice. The crusher has two six-inch-long stainless steel rollers. He says the rollers can squeeze out up to 95 per cent of the juice.
To add flavour, he sometimes mixes the juice with garlic, ginger, beetroot, and lemon, adding them to the raw sugar cane in the crushing machine.
He says, “The juice is ready to drink immediately after the extraction. Nothing is added to it.”
Mr. Onsinyo says that adding value to his sugar cane is the best way to maximize income from his farm. He explains: “My quarter-acre sugar cane farm gives me about 800,000 Kenyan shillings ($7.850 US) in a season, an amount I could not realize by selling the raw sugar cane directly to the market.”
A fully mature sugar cane sells for up to 20 Kenyan shillings ($0.20 US). But after adding value by extracting the juice, the same sugar cane brings Mr. Onsinyo up to 150 shillings ($1.47 US). He sells the juice in small, 150-millilitre plastic cups for 50 shillings each ($0.49 US).
Most farmers in his area have also started adding value to sugar cane by producing juice. Mr. Onsinyo says he has inspired more than 20 farmers. Other parts of Kenya are using him to teach farmers how to add value to sugar cane.
Mary Obonyo from Kisii town was inspired by Mr. Onsinyo. She buys sugar cane from farmers and processes the juice. She runs a small eatery where she sells an average of 20 litres of juice every day.
Samuel Onchangwa grows sugar cane in Sotik Town, Bomet County, and was also taught by Mr. Onsinyo. Like Mrs. Obonyo, Mr. Onchangwa buys additional raw sugar cane cheaply from small-scale farmers and extracts the juice, which he sells at a big profit.
Mr. Onchangwa says, “I can earn a profit of up to 80,000 Kenyan Shillings ($785 US) every month from selling sugar cane juice.”
Dr. Ernest Nyachieo is a dietitian and nutrition expert in Kenya. He says raw sugar cane juice is best for the human body, especially for people who are sick. Besides giving instant energy, he says the juice also helps fight organisms that cause disease when people consume it in its natural form, unlike processed sugar.
David Munyi is a Director of Agriculture in Nyamira County. He says the county encourages more farmers to add value to sugar cane to maximize their profits. Mr. Munyi says: “We used to have problems with middlemen exploiting the farmers. But now, the farmers themselves have found a new way of dealing with the challenge and they are doing well.”
Mr. Onsinyo is happy that sugar cane is supporting his family. He earns more than five times as much from sugar cane juice as he would earn from raw sugar cane. He says: “Previously, I could not get any profit after selling my sugar cane through brokers. I could sell the quarter-acre of my sugar cane at around 50,000 Kenyan shillings ($491 US) only.” Now, his income from a quarter-acre has multiplied to 800,000 shillings ($7,850 US).