Nakuru's nuts processor yearns for modern equipment

Satima Peanuts Company

Gilbert Ndegwa of Satima Peanuts Company loads groundnuts into a processing machine where they are ground into peanut butter.

Photo credit: Rachel Kibui | Nation Media Group

The sun is scorching hot on a Monday mid-morning in Shabaab estate on the outskirts of Nakuru town. From the roadside, one can hear some noise from a close-by building. It sounds like a motorbike.

But a curious eye leads to Satima Peanuts Company, where we find Gilbert Ndegwa grinding nuts in preparation for making several brands of peanut butter.

Outside the premises is about 15 kilos of groundnuts, spread to dry under the sun ahead of roasting and later packaging for the market.

Mr Ndegwa processes groundnuts twice or thrice a week — depending on demand and supply — his main market being families, retailers and hawkers within Nakuru.

Peanuts and peanut butter

Ready peanuts and peanut butter processed at Nakuru's Satima Peanuts Company.

Photo credit: Rachel Kibui | Nation Media Group

Love for nuts

His is a story of love for the nuts, and passion for this business.

For long, he says, he consumed groundnuts from local hawkers. However, he was often dissatisfied with the fact that nuts were sometimes burnt due to overcooking, or raw, due to undercooking.

“It was in quest for good quality groundnuts that I decided to venture into this business,” he says, adding that he processes an average of 150kg of groundnuts every week.

In a plastic table within his one-room processing space are well-arranged assorted groundnut products. Some are readily roasted nuts packaged in either plastic bags or containers.

Various flavours

Also on display are various flavours of peanut butter — plain, with honey, and with pumpkin seeds powder and stinging nettle roots powder.

The prices vary depending on the quantity and flavour. The most expensive flavour is pumpkin seeds powder and stinging nettle root powder, costing Sh750 per kilogramme.

Groundnuts are packaged in different quantities, with prices ranging between Sh20 and Sh100.

Mr Ndegwa depends on two main machines, both of which he has himself assembled. The first one is the grinder, which he uses to make peanut butter, while the second one is a roaster for roasting the nuts.

The roaster comprises a motor and a cylindrical container and a cupboard-like body.

The process of roasting nuts begins by washing them in salty water before they are dried under the sun.

He uses heat from cooking gas to heat the cylindrical mini-tank, which rotates to allow the nuts to cook evenly. This process takes between 40 and 45 minutes.

The machine for making peanut butter is mounted on a large vehicle tyre.

An aluminium bucket is filled with 15kg of groundnuts for each processing cycle. Grinding is done by use of electric power. However, unlike the modern machines which take less than an hour to process 15kg, his takes between an hour and one-and-a-half hours.

Imported nuts

Despite having a ready market concentrated within Nakuru town and its environs, Mr Ndegwa is concerned that he depends on imported nuts.

“I usually source for the nuts from Nairobi, and I am told they are grown in Malawi,” he says.

Kenyan farmers, he adds, do not have good varieties of groundnuts as they are small in size and not rich in colour. The maroon coloured imported nuts — large in size and with a good taste — are most preferred by customers.

He hopes that Market Access Upgrade Programme (Markup) Kenya, which is supported by the European Union (EU), will empower local farmers so that they can produce good quality groundnuts.

“There is a need to train farmers on the right seeds to plant, and suitable farm inputs like fertilisers, so that they can produce high quality groundnuts,” notes Mr Ndegwa.

Satima Peanuts Company

The machine used for grinding peanuts at Satima Peanuts Company before they are processed into peanut butter.

Photo credit: Rachel Kibui | Nation Media Group

Linkages with farmers

Besides, he hopes to benefit from linkages with farmers, who may be producing good quality groundnuts, but lack a market.

“It is my hope that Markup Kenya will not only seek to empower farmers, but also other stakeholders including processors like myself,” he says, adding that he would like to be assisted with modern equipment.

Markup Kenya seeks to promote food safety and market competitiveness along groundnuts, macadamia, mango, French beans, snow peas, passion fruits, chili, herbs and spices value chains.

The programme is implemented in 12 counties across the country by United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido) in partnership with the government and the private sector.

The programme, according to County Coordinator Maina Karuiru, will especially seek to empower the youth and women as they are key pillars of the economy.