Thursday, September 28, 2023

Juliet Oduor: The Siaya Woman Reaping Big From Cassava-made Chapatis

By Jane Muia

Juliet Oduor is a Kenyan entrepreneur who has gone beyond what many could ever think of. The Siaya-based lady is reaping big from chapatis, pancakes, and cakes made of Cassava.

What an innovation!

The idea to start making chapatis made of Cassava came after discovering her son was allergic to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rice and which triggers bloating, diarrhoea, or constipation. Juliet could not afford gluten-free products as they were expensive, which prompted her to find a way to ensure her son got a good breakfast.

“My son had to go gluten-free eight years ago. At that time, gluten-free wasn’t a buzzword as it is now, so you could only find the products at health stores, and they were very expensive. You spend a lot of money, and the recipe does not work out,”

she said.

Whenever she went out partying with friends, she could carry packed food for her son, and that’s how people around her got to know about pancakes and chapatis made of Cassava.

‘’At times, people would want to taste maybe the gluten-free chapati or cake, and that is when I started getting orders from family and friends,”

said Oduor.

It is at this point she started monetising her innovation. Her first products were pancake mixes, baking flour, and chapati. Her customer base grew to folds, prompting her to set up a bigger company to make enough products for all her customers.

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The Siaya-based company makes around 1000 kg weekly and sells up to 3,000kg monthly. She sells a kilogram of plain cassava flour at Ksh 180 and Ksh550 for the mixes. Her other products include a Coconut cake mix containing cassava flour, coconut, baking powder, and sugar.

Juliet starts production of these products from scratch. She gets the Cassava from the farmers, peel them, dries them, mills them, then do different formulations and takes them to the market. She prefers dealing with farmers directly because it guarantees her the freshness of the product.

Her innovation which has employed four people has not only helped her find a source of income but has also encouraged the farming of the tuber crop in the region, which was stalled by a lack of market.

“Most people don’t grow Cassava because there’s no market for it. So I wanted to change that narrative and offer a ready market, everyone wants to plant maize, but maize doesn’t do so well in Siaya. Cassava, sorghum, and millet do very well,”

she said.

Further, she has solved the problem of expensive gluten-free products in the region, as Cassava has become an alternative source of food for parents with gluten-intolerant children.

Juliet called upon more farmers in the region to grow the crop to ensure enhanced supply.

“We have smallholder farmers; maybe the largest is around 1 acre. We need more farmland and more farmers,’’

she said.

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