The Portuguese introduced coconuts in the 16th century at the Kenyan coast after which its cultivation spread rapidly and later became an industrial crop of considerable economic importance during the 20th century.
In Kilifi county located in the Kenyan coastal region, coconut is one of the essential food security crops. The plant produces nuts throughout the year under favorable climatic conditions.
Most farmers in the area have ventured into coconut oil production after the coconut value chain was underscored as a critical contributor in addressing poverty and food insecurity. As a result, a natural bridge between farmers, mostly youth and women and end consumers has been created. This has ensured coconut oil producers in Kilifi are the greatest beneficiaries of their very own natural resources of coconuts.
Chikoy Ventures is one such company that has now specialized in coconut value addition. Started in 2018, the company began by selling coconut as a whole to various outlets. In a candid interview with Purity Njeru the founder of Chikoy Ventures, she put their journey into perspective from a humble beginning to becoming one of the renowned sellers of coconut oil in Kilifi county. According to Purity, the scarcity of nuts and lack of market pushed them to venture into the processing of coconut oil.
“When the nut scarcity began, we decided to add value to the coconut and do coconut oil,” said Purity. The company that was started by three youths, two of them being women, saw the opportunity to produce coconut oil since there was a ready market unlike selling coconuts. The demand for the product was high and they could not meet the demand due to low production. Their biggest challenge would be to get the machines required to process and produce the coconut in large volumes.
The company located in Kaloleni, deep inside the villages of Kilifi county, had to find a way to meet the unending demand. “We were in dire need of the machines to help us in production. Kenya Climate Innovation Center came in handy for us. We learned about them and applied. To our surprise we got enrolled in their program,” underscored Purity.
Through the KCIC Agribiz program, Chikoy Ventures managed to secure an initial funding to acquire the required machinery. “ KCIC purchased for us the needed machines, and we are now able to produce the oil in large quantities. KCIC also assisted us in getting KEBS certification, and we can sell our products all over increasing our profits,” said Purity.
From the support Chikoy Ventures received from KCIC, the company can now produce the coconut oil in large amounts and meet the demand of the product. The company has also created employment in the region and promoted coconut farming since it sources its raw materials from coconut farmers.
With the recent launch of the Kilifi business Incubation hub, coconut production is set to increase in the region as more farmers receive training and mentorship on the various farming methods.Agribiz program is propelling youth and women in the Agribusiness sector all over the country to attain a sustainable future and mitigate climate change and its impact.