Mathenge factory closes over lack of raw material

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021 00:00 |
The machine chopping logs of Prosopsis (Mathenge) tree from farmers at Cummins power generation industry at Marigat in Baringo County. Photo/PD/Courtesy

Wycliff Kipsang @wsang08

Residents of Marigat town in Baringo County who celebrated the establishment of a factory to convert the infamous Mathenge tree (Prosopis) into biomass years ago are now staring at gloom following its collapse..

A Chinese firm, Cummins Cogeneration Kenya Limited, had injected more than Sh2.2 billion to set up the factory, which would have seen the generation of more than 8MW of electricity. 

However, four years down the lane, the factory has shut activities due to reported   lack of raw materials.

In a past interview with People Daily, the company’s Managing Director, Yash Krishna, was upbeat that the initiative was the only effective way to utilise Mathenge that has been a thorn in the flesh of Marigat town  residents.

“This is a very positive project. We will employ gasification technology, which is  eco-friendly, since there will be no poisonous fumes omitted to the environment,” said Krishna in a previous interview. 

Ambitious project

The ambitious project was one of a kind in the country and would have been extended to Turkana, Lamu, Eldoret, Thika, Kisumu, Kericho, Marsabit, Garrisa and Taita Taveta counties, which also have  plenty of the Mathenge tree. Residents had already started supplying the tree to the factory with a kilogramme going for Sh2. They  have since expressed disappointment over  the factory’s collapse. 

William Arusei, a resident of Marigat area of Baringo South sub-county who had been eking out a living from selling the tree to the factory is disappointed man. 

“I used to generate income from this venture and provide for my family.  The collapse of the project has affected us immensely,” Arusei told People Daily during a tour of the factory last week.

The residents had organised themselves into seven Community Based Organisations  where they would be paid for their produce on delivery.

Some of the Prosopis growing areas in Baringo South  that improve their livelihoods from the project include Ilng’arua, Ng’ambo, Salabani, Loropil, Kiserian, Ilchamus, Eldume, Sandai, Loboi and Kapkuikui that  has more than 5,000 residents.

Residents would drop the logs at various strategic collection points and the company’s  tractors would collect them. The factory would require 80,000 tonnes of the tree. 

As an exotic tree, Mathenge, which is scientifically referred to as Prosopis Julifora was introduced  years ago to curb desertification and provide fuel in Arid and Semi Arid Lands but has now become an invasive weed occupying an area of over 600 kilometre in over six counties.

 The minority Ilchamus community bordering Lake Baringo was in the news when they went to the High Court claiming that the obnoxious plant was harming their livestock.  They took a toothless goat to court as exhibit.

Baringo County is rich in resources with the Geothermal Development Company  set to roll out generation of more than 3,000 megawatts of electricity. 

The county government has also signed a Sh6 billion Memorandum of Understanding with Chuansian International Company from China for the mining of Diatomite that will see the production of more than 200,000 tonnes of the mineral anually.

“These investments mark an important milestone in the county’s quest to achieve an accelerated development growth as outlined in its integrated Development Plan  and Vision 2030,”said Governor Stanley Kiptis. 

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