In the serene village of Imamune, nestled within the picturesque Ikolomani sub-county of Kenya, Mathias Machika has emerged as a local legend.
His unique and industrious approach to making jaggery has not only sustained his family for over a decade but has also provided employment opportunities for others in the community, breathing life into a fading tradition.
Mathias Machika’s journey into the world of jaggery making was borne out of necessity. Like many residents of Kakamega, he was once a sugarcane farmer.
However, the local sugar factories encountered severe issues, leaving sugarcane farmers with nowhere to sell their harvest. Faced with this predicament, Machika embarked on a journey of innovation.
Instead of letting his precious sugarcane crop rot away, he devised a way to salvage it. He began crushing the sugarcane in small quantities, a process he conducted manually. To his astonishment, people from neighboring areas started flocking to buy the resulting jaggery.
Machika’s manual jaggery-making process is an intricate, labor-intensive endeavor comprising several stages. It all begins with the extraction of sugarcane juice.
He feeds the cane into two circular aluminum cylinders mounted on a metallic frame.
The juice flows into a large aluminum sufuria (a traditional Kenyan cooking pot) strategically placed beneath the grinder. The leftover cane waste is carefully dried in the sun, repurposed as firewood, making the process eco-friendly.
Once the juice is collected, it is poured into a metal container with some water and heated for approximately 30 minutes. This step concentrates the liquid.
Afterward, the liquid is left to cool for at least 10 minutes. Finally, the cooled liquid is poured into small containers, where it solidifies into jaggery bars ready for packaging and sale.
Machika’s venture has not only sustained him and his family but has also become a financial lifeline for his community. He earns between 10,000 and 15,000 Kenyan shillings daily, enabling him to provide for his family, including paying school fees for his children and covering various expenses.
Furthermore, he has created employment opportunities for seven individuals in the community, demonstrating his commitment to community development.
While Machika’s jaggery-making venture faces challenges such as the scarcity of raw materials and fluctuating prices, his resilience and dedication shine through. He takes pride in not only sustaining his family but also empowering others in the community economically by renting out his manual cane grinder to aspiring jaggery producers.
Beyond its economic impact, Mathias Machika’s jaggery has gained recognition for its medicinal value and health benefits. Customers from neighboring regions seek out this natural sweetener as a healthier alternative to refined sugar, and some incorporate it into traditional brews, further cementing its place in local culture.