Baringo residents’ hopes for income fade as Sh2.2bn ‘Mathenge’ factory stalls

Project billed as one of its kind in the country yet to take off four years after its launch.

Cummins Power Generation boss Yash Krishna, explains the concept of power production using the Mathenge plant at Marigat on October 3, 2014. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

IN SUMMARY

  • Mathenge plant — known botanically as Prosopis juliflora — continues to wreak havoc.
  • Cummins Cogeneration Kenya Limited, was the company behind the project that was supposed to start operations in 2014.

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It was billed as a project of its own kind in Kenya, which would have seen more than eight megawatts of electricity generated from an invasive and poisonous plant in Baringo County.

But four years down the line, no power is being generated and Mathenge plant — known botanically as Prosopis juliflora — continues to wreak havoc.

Those behind the idea had thought of turning Mathenge into a productive investment by crushing it to generate electricity that would be sold to Kenya Power.

But there is nothing happening at the factory in Marigat, Baringo South Sub-County after its equipment reportedly became obsolete, dealing a big blow to the region’s economy.

START OPERATIONS IN 2014

Cummins Cogeneration Kenya Limited, was the company behind the project that was supposed to start operations in 2014.

The company recently said it had injected more than Sh2.2 billion for the setting up of the factory which had been expected to be a source of livelihood for hundreds of farmers who were to supply the plant to the factory for crushing.

Mathenge’ plants in Marigat area, Baringo County, on January 21, 2014. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

However, activities have since stalled in the factory. A spot check by the Nation last week revealed that all was silent, a sharp contrast to the situation four years ago where machines were roaring as farmers supplied the trees to the factory.

But what might have led to the collapse of the project which would have seen more than 100 people employed when fully operational?

PRODUCE BIOMASS

A senior official at the factory who preferred anonymity for fear of being victimised for speaking to the media told the Nation that the area’s Prosopis species has a lot of moisture hence incompatible with the gasification technology which would have been employed to produce the biomass.

“We are contemplating looking for another alternative to produce bio-mass as the technology which we were relying on has not worked,” the official told the Nation.

In a past interview with the Nation, the then company’s Managing Director Yash Krishna had said that the gasification technology was eco-friendly and would not emit poisonous fumes.

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