As a staple food for Kenya, there is a direct impact you can have on them when you find ways of reducing the cost to buy the unga (flour) for Ugali directly when it is not through fertilizers or other farm inputs. When this leads to refined flour that also better fills the stomach, you got yourself a customer for eternity.
Rose Achieng’ is one such lady. She has five mouths to feed, four being adults and one a child and considering her low income, Ugali is often consumed both at lunchtime and dinner.
A resident of Kabiria, she used to buy two kg packet of maize flour from the shops that would last her two days. She explains that a chef uses more flour because of its texture and someone eats more to better fill the stomach.
Then came a posho mill that comes with a variety of options for her and other locals. One can go with their own maize to be sifted, buy from the posho mill and it is sifted or just buy already sifted maize flour.
Today, for the same two kgs of floor from the posho mill, Rose feeds her household for three days and sometimes four, when she cooks it at lunch and dinner. “It is a whole difference to us,” she says sheepishly.
Hope Kabiria Self Help Group
Rose is part of a group called Hope Kabiria Self Help Group. They came together in 2018 when one of them, Milka Kemunto took part in a training on how to make liquid soap, courtesy of an aspiring Member of County Assembly (MCA) who instead of handouts, was empowering them with skills.
Milka saw it fit to invite other ladies so as to jointly learn the skill and empower themselves economically. They started a merry-go-round and table banking program. They are 12 women.
They meet every Thursday where they make Ksh200 contributions. When one cannot make it and sends an apology, they pay Ksh50 fine and without an apology they would part with Ksh100 fine.
“It is the hopelessness that made us really see strength in numbers” says Milka, who is the chair lady.
When they meet, they make the soap, then each member goes round the neighborhood selling it from one household to the next. But increasingly other people also got into the business and this drove their sales low.
But then, they saw an advert on Television and decided to think of a posho mill as their second venture.
According to Posho Mills Kenya, a company that specializes in the supply and sale of high-quality posho mill machines in Kenya, a posho mill produces different grades of flour at the end. Depending on the functionality of the machine and the milling process used, you can get coarse maize grits, fine maize grits and sifted grade one maize flour. The latter is what is used to make the preferred ugali dish.
Some posho mills do not have the grade one functionality and can therefore only produce grade two flour that is not as fine as grade one flour. A grade one posho mill, therefore, allows you more versatility since you can get a variety of outputs. With only a little adjustment you can produce flour of the granular size you want. This also makes it easy for your business to serve a diverse clientele and therefore more profits on your end.
The grade one maize flour you get from this milling process is highly nutritious because none of the parts of the maize have been removed from the process. The end product is whole maize flour.
It is this grade one that Rose and five other ladies speak highly about that was recently installed for them by Safaricom Foundation through their Ndoto Zetu program. They saw the advert on TV, applied in 2020 and in February this year, the posho mill was delivered to their doorstep.
In running the posho mill business, they are able to sell 1-2 full sacks a week. They are relying on two main marketing strategies. The first is the location, which they say has no competition. It also has many locals who prefer this flour from the one sold in shops and security is guaranteed.
Secondly, they use their members to sell in the neighborhoods where they reside. Each member is given a portion weekly which can give them some marginal profit to buy their essentials. In the event a member also consumes it, they can pay up, but this still ensures that they provide for their families even as they contribute to the growth of the business.
Milka states that since the posho mill business started, no member struggles to pay their weekly contributions nor goes hungry.
As they run the posho mill, they still make and sell liquid soap. Some of their members also run their own businesses. But their first triumph will be to ensure that all their members have a business they run, outside of the posho mill or the soap.
In the coming months, they also hope to tap into other opportunities. “We also can deepen our existing business like the soap by engaging with other Ndoto Zetu beneficiaries and Safaricom as a brand to grow the business”, they pray.