BARINGO: Now villagers cash in on dreaded weed - Daily Nation

Now villagers cash in on dreaded weed

Tuesday August 19 2014

A resident of Baringo County holds a Mathenge weed branch. FILE PHOTO |

A resident of Baringo County holds a Mathenge weed branch. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP.

By CHEBET CAROLINE
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The mathenge weed has for a long time been dreaded but it has now turned out to be a key raw material in power generation.

This has given Baringo residents a reason to cultivate it as a commercial crop. They can now harvest and sell it to a biomass power generation plant.

Cummins Cogeneration Kenya Limited has officially launched its multi-billion-shilling biomass project in the county and is set to buy the raw material from farmers.

STANDARD OF LIFE

The project is the first of its kind in Africa and is expected to be one of the driving forces behind growing optimism of a greener future and an improved standard of life.

The company, a subsidiary of the US-based Cummins Limited, is using the biomass gasification method that converts the mathenge weed into electricity, waste heat and residual char.

The invasive weed was once loathed as it caused teeth decay in goats, leaving the animals toothless.

But through the power project, residents will now benefit from the tree.

“The tree, which we viewed as a curse all along, is now turning out to be a blessing.

“It is now enabling us to pay school fees and settle bills with ease, while our villages get lit up ,” said Ms Grace Kipesa, a resident who has started supplying the biomass.

Residents will also benefit from the electricity, which will increase output from green energy sources, and job opportunities that will arise.

“We are currently training locals for job opportunities, as well as conducting interviews,” said Mr Michael Kanyongo of Cummins Cogeneraton Limited.

Farmers are required to harvest trees aged between 18 months and two years. This is the stage when the tree will have reached the required maturity.

“Many among us are no longer regretting why the plant was introduced here 20 years ago. In fact, we are now into mathenge farming to sustain our families,” said Ms Salina Ruttoh, a resident.

The farmers are currently undergoing training on harvesting the plant and drying it before supplying it to the factory.

The company buys a tonne of biomass for Sh1,700.

It is set to use 60 tonnes of biomass per day in the first phase, which was completed in June, and 250 tonnes during the second phase that is set for completion in September.