Mathias Machika has been in the jaggery business for over 10 years at his Imamune village home in Ikolomani, Kakamega county.
He makes jaggery the traditional way, which involves the use of a bull to move a sugarcane crusher while walking in a circular motion.
Juice from sugar is collected in a sufuria placed under the cane crusher. The businessman revealed he started making jaggery after local sugar factories started experiencing challenges, which further affected revenue from his sugarcane farm.
“Like many residents of Kakamega, I used to grow sugarcane, but it was not possible to sell my crop after sugar factories started experiencing problems, so I was forced to invent ways of earning a living,” Machika told The Standard.
“Instead of seeing my sugarcane crop rotting on the farm, I started crushing it in small quantities, and people would come to buy jaggery, some from as far as Navakholo, Malava, and even Lugari sub-counties.” He added.
He notes that demand for the sweetener from his customers is usually high, sometimes forcing him to use three bulls to crush the canes.
Juice from the canes is mixed with some water, poured into a metal container, and heated for 30 minutes.
The concentrated liquid is then left to cool for at least 10 minutes and placed in small containers to form a solid bar. At that stage, one can pack the jaggery and start selling it.
On a good day, Machika extracts at least 24 20-litre jerricans of cane juice, each giving him seven stones of jaggery. He sells a bar of jaggery at Sh50.
Every day, he is able to churn out 200 jaggery stones translating to Sh10,000 in every day.
“I hire out the grinder at Sh500 and the bull at Sh200. My workers earn Sh20 for every 20 litres of juice extracted.” He added.
The businessman revealed he sometimes lands a contract to make jaggery for clients.
“I have no regrets embracing this venture, it helps me fend for my family despite my advanced age, I also pay my workers and repair my manual grinder regularly to remain afloat,” he added.
Machika says a big chunk of his customers prefer using jaggery in making brews or as a sweetener as it is natural and healthy.