Seated under a mango tree, the group of women in Kilifi County listen to their chairlady carefully as she tells them how to manage their crops.
The chairlady of the chama, Patience Dhahabu, is talking to them about importance of ensuring they keep at bay diseases for good harvest. The women are members of Basi Mwangaza Group and they grow cassava, which they use to make ethanol.
“We produce high grade ethanol from the cassava tubers. We grind the tubers into cassava chips to make the ethanol.”
The 200 members of the chama cultivate cassava stems individually on their farms, and then process it into ethanol. “The county government has donated to us a Sh500,000 mobile motorised equipment, which we use to make the ethanol from starch. They gave us the machine recently. Initially, we were not making the spirit.”
The women harvest and take the tubers to the processing plant. To start ethanol production, the tubers are first cleaned to remove dirt.
Then the skin is removed to remain with the white tubers that are put into a slicing machine. The chips are dried for three days to turn them into golden brown. They are then fermented for a further three days in a tank that has yeast. The mixture is then boiled and the vapour cooled to form ethanol, which is later bottled.
A LITRE OF ETHANOL
During the production process, Patience explains that a kilo of dried cassava produces a litre of ethanol.
On a good day, the group manufactures about 20 litres of industrial grade ethanol that sales at Sh300 per litre.
The group plans to go into mass production. However, they are waiting for quality certification from Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service. “Once the certification is issued, we will encourage farmers to venture in the business since there are plans to set up an ethanol factory in the county.”
Currently, they sell the chemicals to schools and dispensaries for laboratory use.
Besides the selling of tubers and ethanol, the women also sell cassava cuttings to other farmers for grow