Kirinyaga County Governor Anne Waiguru says the construction of a rice husk factory in the County the first of its kind in the region is a major milestone for the County residents.
The project funded by the British Government saw Kerugoya/Kutus Municipality qualify, among other 12 municipalities, for a grant through the Sustainable Urban Economic Development (SUED) program.
Waiguru said that the project is a realization of the county’s vision to bring to an end the challenges that rice farmers in the county have encountered from time immemorial.
“While some farmers have been selling the husks at throw away prices, others burn them which causes environmental pollution”, said the governor noting that besides conserving the environment, the project will earn farmers more money from the rice by products.
With the construction of the factory, the county will now make boards from the husks which will in turn be used to make furniture an added value that will generate more income.
She said the factory will offer employment opportunities to county residents and also make Kerugoya/Kutus municipality an industrial hub that will be attractive to investors within and outside the rice husks value chain.
Before settling on the project, the governor said, the county government undertook a feasibility study to determine the level of pollution to the environment by rice husks, the quantity of husks produced and the most appropriate technologies for their value addition.
“We realised that as the largest rice producing county, we have tonnes of rice husks which can be processed to provide a cheaper and safer alternative to timber” said the governor noting that the project will also ease pressure on forests while at the same time improving local economy.
Rice husk boards are considered cheaper and denser than the plywood and conventional wood and therefore offers a timely and sustainable innovation to industry players who are grappling with scarcity and high cost of timber.
Currently, the rice husks are disposed through burning, dumping on the open fields or used as animal feeds and animal bedding posing a major threat to the environment, according to a report by National Environment Trust Fund (NETFund).
Governor Anne Waiguru has said that even though her initial plan was to use the rice husks boards to construct furniture for Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) centres, the project will be expanded into the production of material for other projects including construction of affordable houses in line with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big 4 Agenda. Kirinyaga is one of the counties selected for implementation of the affordable housing project.
Other leaders in the county have praised Governor Waiguru for securing the funding for the project saying it has brought great relief to the rice farmers.
Mwea Member of Parliament, Kabinga Wachira praised the step by the governor to ensure that rice farmers, majority of who come from his constituency, can benefit from a project of such magnitude.
Over 7,000 farmers grow rice under Mwea Irrigation Scheme with hundreds of others having rice paddies in other areas. This number is expected to rise after the completion of the ongoing construction of Thiba Dam.
Kirinyaga County Assembly Leader of Majority, who is also the Kerugoya MCA Kamau Murango has also hailed the governor for the efforts she put in to secure the funds. He said that the project will go a long way in assisting residents of the rice growing county and also make Kerugoya grow.
“I grateful and proud of the governor for this milestone and I am now appealing to all other leaders in the county to support the project and not to start haggling about the location of the project saying that should be the prerogative of the county government to decide as per the conditions of the grant.