The SME Pavilion at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) was a beehive of activity during the country’s first-ever Meat Expo & Conference. The pavilion was set up with funding support from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the programme Business Scouts for Development.
This provided a chance to enhance the visibility of SMEs in the meat value chain while giving them opportunity not only to learn from the market leaders but also showcase their innovations and offerings besides growing their networks.
The Business Scouts for Development programme is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of BMZ.
The event was a fine experience, says Achaari Enterprises co-founder, Deep Vijay Dosaja.
"It was “better than we had expected,” he asserts. His firm makes “authentic pickles, sauces and chutney to accompany meat products as a condiment.”
Deep adds: “Our audience was encouraging and inspiring,” he says, explaining that the people were engaged and interested to know about our different products.
Johari Sauces was another exhibitor at the pavilion. Betsy Jumwa Gona-Oluoch, who co-founded the small firm with her husband, says the expo exceeded her expectations.
“It was a good experience and we were happy to learn that Kenyans are receptive of new stuff, such as our ketchup and chilli sauces, and to small and medium enterprises (SMEs),” says Mrs Oluoch. She is particularly delighted with the new contacts Johari Sauces gained and which she sees boosting the firm’s market penetration. “We have been retailing our range of ketchup and chilli sauces,” says Mrs Oluoch, adding that at the expo, hotels started inquiring if Johari could pack the products in small sachets.
Human traffic to the section of Cookswell Jikos, a small but growing firm, impressed Teddy Kinyanjui, the firm’s sustainability director.
“The expo gave us the opportunity to demonstrate that charcoal cannot only be used cleanly and efficiently but it can also be made sustainably,” says Teddy, adding: “We were busy from the first day.” People thronged the Cookswell Jiko’s stand to see the Jikos used to grill meat into what is famously known as nyama choma, a favourite of many Kenyans.
Also exhibiting at the pavilion was Njoki Muriuki, a veteran travel professional, who turned to her love for cooking when measures to control the Covid-19 pandemic hit all sectors of the economy. “I love cooking and it’s out of that, that Kijo’s Garden, a chilli paste making venture, was born.”
Says Njoki: “I would like to say big thank you to the Business Scouts for Development... It was a great opportunity for us as a business to get a chance to get our product reviews directly from our consumers.... as well as the opportunity to have our business and products advertised to the public
Another exhibitor at the SME pavilion was pasta sauce maker Edibowl, an SME born out of the founder’s personal experience. The drive to start the firm gripped Edith Orego on the day she went to the nearest market in search of a homegrown sauce to satisfy her hunger for a tasty pasta meal. She didn’t find it. That set her on the journey to make sauces made from natural ingredients grown on Kenyan farms. Edith got the opportunity to display her range of products at the expo. She says she received much exposure at the event.
Rose Nkatha, team leader at Ngare Narok Meat Industries Limited lauds the Nation Media Group and its partners for organising the successful two-day event.
Rose says the event offered her firm the opportunity to get people to taste its quality meats. “We benefitted from the networking at the event and we are receiving orders from people who attended the expo,” she says.
On his part, the Rabbit Association of Kenya’s (RABAK’s) Peter Waiganjo says his people were amazed at the number of people who visited their stand, making various inquiries. “That was a great experience for us,” says Peter.
The association’s stand at the SME Pavilion gave many people the opportunity to learn about rabbit meat and rearing of the animal, and Peter says RABAK is grateful to German Development Cooperation Programme for hosting them.
Tawi Naturals Limited co-founder and director Njeri Rono, says she didn’t quite expect the high turnout she witnessed at the event. Her firm, a small local processor of spices, herbs and natural foods, showcased stuff that drew the interest of the audience. She says they were excited by the natural products they saw. “Our products have no additives,” Njeri stresses.
She adds that value-addition involving the processing of products without using additives helps curb food loss or wastage while promoting the eating of healthy foods. A good example is the vegetables processed and packed by Tawi Naturals.
Training for butchers
Dr Muttai asks people who want to become butchers to seek training at the Meat Training Institute.
He says the institute trains people on various aspects of meat, for example, butchery hygiene, meat grading, and cold-chain management. For long, the institute used to offer in-service training, mostly to meat inspectors in the public service. Nowadays training at the institute is open to all – even the private sector.
Still at the expo, a veterinary professional urged people who run butcheries to use professional butchers or ensure their staff get relevant training.
The majority – up to 80 percent – in butchers “are ‘meat cutters’ and not butchers, says Geoffrey Muttai, senior deputy director of veterinary services based at the Meat Training Institute in Athi River, Machakos County.
“Butchers,” says Dr Muttai, “are professionals who understand the different meat cuts.”
Dr Muttai says the expo was good for the meat industry because it offered people the opportunity to network. “A lot of people in the meat value chain now know that the Meat Training Institute offers courses that can benefit them,” he says.
He thanked the German Development Cooperation for sponsoring the institute at the expo.
Most of the exhibitors at the SME Pavilion suggest that the event be annual. It should also run for three to four days, covering at least one of the weekend days, for more people to attend.
Organisers should consider hosting regional expos that should lead up to the final one in Nairobi, some of them further suggest.