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Former casual labourer births cassava value addition empire

A talk with his aunt about business ideas became the light bulb moment for Alex Ombuto who has found a fortune in cassava root which he adds value to in the making of crisps, snacks, and nutritional porridge in a business venture with over half a million annual turnover.

After being fired from his job as a casual labourer, Alex Otieno Ombuto decided to visit his aunt in Mombasa to get some business tips. With a drive to try his hands on any business, he decided to go back to his home in Kisumu and try cassava value addition.

 “I had no idea that the cassava root I always perceived as food for people living in abject poverty could be used for making affordable crisps, doughnuts, chips, snacks, nutritional porridge, and even ugali”, said Mr. Ombuto. Since he introduced the idea to Kisumu residents, commercialisation of cassava has been tremendously gaining popularity and many entrepreneurs and farmers are embracing the root and its products.

Meeting Market Demand

The trend has picked up around the upmarket Kilimani in Kisumu town where the business is booming due to the high demand from Asians and Indians living in the region.

“Indians love homemade cassava crisps and doughnuts so much that they often flock to my business premises in the evening to take some home”, said the entrepreneur and a resident of Kilimani estate.

His business targets schools, local hotels, offices, supermarkets, and small retail shops.

“More often, industrial buyers are attracted by my homemade-level value addition that simply involves cleaning, chipping, and drying which greatly reduces their production costs at their plants”, he said.

From Modest Savings to Thriving Business

From his modest savings of sh3,000, Mr Ombuto and his wife Florence Ombuto are now running a business with an annual turnover of Sh480, 000. They have also employed six workers whom they pay Sh250.

The father of six now versifies his business by of land to plant cassavas to reduce costs. He plans to expand to export his products.

Pricing and Monopoly Advantage

The price of his home crisps ranges between Sh100 and Sh500, depending on quantity and size. However, for his client supermarkets and hotels, purchases are made in bulk at a cost depending on quantity.

Given his location, he enjoys a business monopoly.

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