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Farmers minting millions from avocado and pumpkin seed oil

 

Sheila Chumba, Bungoma

Pumpkins have been traditionally considered a poor man’s crop and are even associated with Halloween to celebrate the memory of lost souls.

But farmers in Bungoma have found a niche in it and are now processing oil from pumpkin seeds and flour from its flesh enabling them to put food on the table.

They are also extracting oil from avocados that are ‘readily available’  and common in the villages.

John Munyasia,76, the founder of Tens Star Cottage industry is one of the farmers and says that ‘he came across a book’ that made him discover that pumpkin seeds and avocado can be processed into cooking oil at household level.

“In the book, I learnt that conditions that can expose someone to dangers of cancer, heart and blood diseases, and urinary infections among men can be avoided by using pumpkin seed oil,” said Munyasia

The former high school teacher said he started collecting pumpkin seeds ‘which he took’ to an agro-processing unit at Mabanga Agricultural Training Centre (MATC) to find out if oil could be extracted from the seeds.

John Munya -left- with his workers admires pumpkin seeds drying under the sun before being processed to produce pumpkin seed oil- Photo/Isaac Mutiso

“We indeed produced pumpkin seed oil and I saw a business opportunity in the venture,” said Munyasia, adding that he immediately converted three acres of his land into a pumpkin farm.

After three months, Munyasia harvested his pumpkins and for ‘every 5 kilos of the produce he was able to extract 1-2 litres of pumpkin seed oil while its flesh was dried and ground into flour.

He said the process requires no additives or heat to extract the oil which according to him is cholesterol free.

“There is a ready market for the oil we produce locally and in neighbouring counties of Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Kakamega and Kisumu as well as Uganda. The demand is very high as compared to supply and we are looking for partners to expand this project,” said Juma

Munyasia sells one litre of pumpkin seed at Sh 8000 while pumpkin flour goes that Sh 400 per kilo.

“Pumpkin seed oil is good for cooking and can be taken as a supplement and applied to human hair as well,” said Munyasia, adding that it is rich in linoleic acid and contains high amounts of antioxidants compounds that help to protect against inflammation and chronic diseases.

John Munyasia holding two -litre bottles of avocado seed oil – Photo/Isaac Mutiso

According to Munyasia, he now has a 15-acre farm under pumpkin while at the same time, he has contracted about 40 farmers who have ventured into the project.

He also imports pumpkins from Uganda where they are grown on a large scale. He also extracts oil from avocado.

Lewis Juma is a farmer and a supervisor at Tens Star cottage industry. He (Juma) produces avocado seed oil which he sells at Sh3000 per litre.

“Avocados are plenty in many homes and we don’t struggle to get ‘raw materials’ to extract oil,” said Juma.

He said avocado seed oil improves skin health by promoting skin elasticity, saying it’s used to treat skin diseases like eczema and dermatitis.

He said that the oil is rich in oleic acid that contains vitamin E as well as stimulating blood flow to the scalp and unclog blocked follicles.

“There is a ready market for the oil we produce locally and in neighbouring counties of Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Kakamega and Kisumu as well as Uganda. The demand is very high as compared to supply and we are looking for partners to expand this project,” said Juma

He added: “We are in the process of procuring sophisticated oil extraction machines to meet the demand and supply. We want to contract more farmers so that we can maximize on profits by expanding our market reach,” said Juma.

Prof Gordon Nguka, a Clinical Nutritionist and Dietetics from Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (Mmust), said that avocado and pumpkin seed oils are used as organic supplements since they are rich in nutrients.

“Pumpkin seed oil supplements are ideal for treating prostate cancer (benign prostate hyperplasia), urinary tract problems and improve heart health,” said Prof Nguka

Prof Nguka said that it’s recommended to use the oils since they are easily digested directly into the blood vessels as compared to ‘consuming’ the seeds.

For pumpkin flour, he said it’s rich in immunity-boosting nutrients like Vitamins A and C as well as minerals like zinc that are essential for improved cognitive function, good vision and improved skin health.

“The magnesium in pumpkin flour is good for improved mood and better sleep and the manganese in it supports collagen growth for optimal bone and skin health,” said Prof Nguka.

Arnold Wamukota’s wife had a problem with her eyesight and started using pumpkin flour, saying after two to three months, she regained her vision.

“My wife could not read without glasses but when we started adding a teaspoonful of pumpkin flour to her porridge, she was able to read without glasses. She had fully regained her vision,” said Mr Wamukota

End

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