Organic food products for healthier living in Mombasa!
Three women entrepreneurs are taking Mombasa by storm as they produce value-addition organic products from the stairs of their rental house.
Most families, particularly those living in urban areas, prefer modern processed foods with chemicals, which have very low nutritious value and come with many health risks.
Silvia Nyaga from Kisauni and her two colleagues, Sharlet Asiachi and Ann Muthoni, produce organic products, which not only help them earn income but promote health for both children and adults.
They initiated the idea two years ago to not only operate a business but also advocate for families in urban centres to consume nutritious foods free from chemicals.
The three registered a company called Sylo Health Products, which specifically deals with health products that are 100 percent pure.
“My products have no chemicals, they are highly nutritious. It’s food, yes, but on the other hand, it has a healing effect. Once you eat it, it boosts your immune system,” Nyaga says.
Organic food refers to food products that are produced, prepared, and processed without the use of any chemicals. Its demand has increased over the past decade, as it is healthier than conventional food.
Under Sylo, Nyaga produces peanut butter, Amaranth flour, coconut vinegar, Pure Amaranth powder, pure natural bee honey and Moringa seeds powder and other products from the Moringa tree.
Amaranth is traditionally known as mchicha in Kenya, while Moringa (mzungwi) is also a traditional tree, which is nutritious and has a lot a medicinal value.
Due to lack of capital to get out of the space, they operate in, Nyaga decided to utilise the small staircase area in the house. She took me to the process of making peanut butter naturally, without adding anything.
HOW THEY MAKE IT
“Sylo does so many health products,” Nyaga says. “We are going to show you how we do milling of our products, how we make peanut butter organically.”
Nyaga buys peanuts from the market and takes them to Kongowea for roasting since she does not have her own roaster.
“We don’t remove the outer covering of the peanuts. We mill with it because the outer covering has fibre that helps to make good peanut butter,” she says as she prepares the roasted peanuts.
After removing the dust and leaves, she mills it using the only small electric mortar miller, which can mill 2kg at a time. It takes five to 10 minutes to be ready.
“Once it’s ready it becomes watery. Inside the miller it’s usually hot, and we have to wait for it to cool before we begin packaging,” she adds.
The readily processed butter is then packaged in jars of 200g, 400g and 800g, ready to go to the market to be sold at Sh200, Sh300 and Sh500 respectively.
But before that, Nyaga and her team must seal the jars so that no one can break them until the buyer opens them at the comfort of his or her home.
“This is pure peanut butter. We don’t add sugar, honey, water or anything. It’s secure; nobody can tamper with it. After here now we are going to put our product stickers,” she says.
GOOD INCOME AND HEALTHY
On a good month, the women get Sh15,000 to Sh20,000 from the sale of peanut butter alone. Nyaga says many people fear peanut butter because of oil. However, anyone who checks online will see it is very nutritious, she says.
“It has magnesium fibres, calcium, iron and so many food minerals that help in the body,” Nyaga says.
Peanuts have a fibre that helps reduce weight for adults. “One has to eat in the morning with a slice of bread. During the day, you will not even feel like eating anything else,” Nyaga says, adding that peanut oil also opens cardiovascular veins.
“In the modern society, illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure are arising because of the food being eaten. People should go back to eating organic foods,” Nyaga says.
Asked how she acquired the knowledge, Nyaga says she was trained by Agriculture officers and did more research through the Internet, reading books and newspapers.
Since the company was opened two years ago, she has been able to employ six people. At the ‘factory’ there are three staff members, including herself, and one boy was employed at her shop, which sells the company’s products.
The company also employed one person at Kaloleni, who produces vinegar, while at Gede in Kilifi county, there are trained groups that make coconut oil.
At first, they used to move from door to door making locals understand their products. However, as time went by, they reached out to many people after going to forums such as shows.
“People have seen our products, and whenever one buys, they will always refer somebody else once it works for him or her. Many many customers are being referred, and we also continue marketing one on one,” Nyaga says.
Her message to women out there is to ensure they study nutrition skills. She goes to different places teaching other people the skills they have.
Amaranth flour is another leading product of Sylo Health Products. They get the seeds from Mpeketoni in Lamu county, Kisumu and sometimes Tanzania.
“These seeds we can pop them and get nuts for both children and adults. The same seeds can be sold to farmers to plant,” Nyaga says.
Amaranth flour is good for people with arthritis, diabetes and asthma. The flour is also important and healthy for children, as it has calcium, which helps them in growth.
“It’s the best porridge for children who are growing up. It’s also good for weak people. Some people get weak when they fall sick,” she says, adding that they sell 500g of Amaranth flour at Sh200.
Other Sylo products are from the Moringa tree. Moringa grows in homesteads and can produce flour. Its leaves are good as vegetables, which are mixed with spinach or mchicha.
“One can also take the leaves, wash them, then blend them to produce juice, which has many benefits to the body,” Nyaga says.
Moringa seeds are ground and have proved to be very nutritious, particularly for diabetic patients, while Moringa flowers are also good for treating patients with infections.
“The flowers are squeezed with water and applied to the infected area, such as athlete’s foot,” she says.
Cases of malnutrition are not new. A visit to hospital reveals children suffering from malnutrition-related diseases, such as kwashiorkor.
Expectant mothers also require nutritious foods to help in the growth of the unborn child.
Sylo Health Products enterprise is just an example of how women can become entrepreneurs to develop organic products that will not only generate income but promote a healthy nation.
Scaling Up Nutrition-Kenya chairman George Ouma says it’s important for the community to be educated on the importance of eating nutritious foods.
“A lot of community members understand that a balanced diet is eating meat,” he says.
Ouma says the population of children is very high at 50 percent, and for proper brain development, they require nutritious foods.
“Breastfeeding mothers need adequate foods, which translate to well-developed brains and growth,’’ he says.
The chairman says food insecurity and nutrition cannot be addressed in isolation. They require concerted efforts of the Education ministry, social services and donors including World Bank and Jica.