Tuesday, February 7, 2012

New dye to lower textile costs by Sh18m

A student models an outfit made from the natural dye during the launch at Moi University.  Photo/FILE

A student models an outfit made from the natural dye during the launch at Moi University. Photo/FILE  

By DENNIS ODUNGA [email protected]

A newly invented natural dye is expected to reduce the cost of textile production in the country.

According to Moi University Vice Chancellor Richard Mibey, who is the principal researcher, the dye will considerably cut operational costs since local producers have been relying on imported varieties.

“This innovation will go a long way in the revitalisation of the textile industry in Kenya that has remained threatened by the second-hand clothes (mitumba) industry over the years, due to the latter’s affordability,” Prof Mibey said. 

Rivatex East Africa Textile Mills launched the natural dye that is produced from a local herb — tagetes minuta, commonly referred to as Stinking Roger, a herb that grows naturally in various parts of the country.

It took the university three years to make the discovery that is expected to save the industry at least Sh18 million.

Other co-inventors were Dr David Tuigong, the Rivatex East Africa managing director, and Mr Billy Makumba, an employee of the university.

Basket case

Rivatex was bought by Moi University in 2007 after nine years as a basket case.

The university has initiated several projects to rejuvenate the cotton industry to feed the factory, including partnering with Alexandria University of Egypt to help farmers in Kenya revamp cotton production.

Mr Tuigong said that with the discovery of the dye, coupled with acquisition of modern machines, production at the factory had roared back to life.

“We have been able to accelerate the production time and now our clients will be assured of a variety of high quality goods on time,” said Dr Tuigong.

Speaking during the launch at Moi University, Higher Education minister Margaret Kamar appealed to lecturers to move beyond teaching and publishing and increase the number of innovations they churn out if Kenya is to meet its goal of being a middle income country by 2030.

“Our over-reliance on imports can lead us to consuming rejects from other countries. We should implement the research findings we come up with,” said the minister.

Prof Kamar said new technologies were key to creating wealth and challenged other scholars to invest heavily in sustainable research that can solve the current challenges bedevilling Kenya.

She appealed to scholars to apply for and utilise funds available for research from the National Council of Science and Technology (NCST), adding that she could push for increased funding for universities in the next fiscal year from the current Sh400 million.

Rewarding scholars

Speaking at the event, the university’s chancellor, Prof Bethwel Ogot, appealed to the government to consider rewarding scholars who come up with successful innovations and upgrade research laboratories to enable lecturers embark on research.

“The government has a duty to protect innovations and reward those behind them. Some scholars are carrying out research from their cars,” said Prof Ogot.

Others at the event included Prof Adipala Ekwamu from Makerere University, Prof Abdulrazak Shaukat of NCST, Kenya Industrial Property Protection Institute managing director Henry Mutai, and Mr David Magwaro, a representative of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Industrialisation.

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