• The Kirinyaga county is constructing a rice husk factory for the farmers with funding from the British government.
• Once opened, the factory will take husks from the farmers and turn them into boards for making furniture among other uses.
For many rice farmers in Kirinyaga, husks have been something you sell at a throw-away price or use as animal feed and bedding.
If a farmer couldn't find use for the husks, they would dump them in open fields or burn them — polluting the environment in the process.
But the rice growers will no longer throw husks away because a new project will make boards for furniture from them.
The Kirinyaga county is constructing a Sh400 million rice husk factory for the farmers with funding from the British government.
Once opened, the factory will take husks from the farmers and turn them into boards for making furniture among other uses. The added value will make more money for farmers.
Rice husk boards are considered cheaper and denser than the plywood and conventional wood. They are a timely and sustainable innovation for the furniture industry which has grappled with costly yet scarce timber.
Governor Anne Waiguru welcomed the construction of the rice husk factory as a milestone that will bring numerous benefits to the residents.
Another beneficiary of the British funding is the Kerugoya-Kutus municipality. Some Sh200 million will be spent on urban planning and development programmes and capacity building.
Kerugoya-Kutus was among 12 municipalities which qualified for the funding under the Sustainable Urban Economic Development (SUED) programme.
Waiguru said the rice husk factory project will bring to an end the challenges rice farmers in the county have encountered for a long time.
Besides conserving the environment, the project will earn farmers more money from the rice by-products, Waiguru said.
The governor said that the factory will offer jobs to county residents and also make the Kerugoya-Kutus municipality an industrial hub that will attract investors within and outside the rice husks value chain.
She said the county government undertook a feasibility study to determine the level of pollution on the environment by rice husks, the amount 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,” Waiguru said.
The project will also ease pressure on forests while improving the local economy, she said.
The governor said her initial plan was to use the rice husks boards to construct furniture for Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) centres. However, the project will be expanded to produce material for other projects including the construction of affordable houses.
Kirinyaga is one of the counties selected for the implementation of the government's affordable housing project.
More than 7,000 farmers grow rice under the 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 assembly's majority leader Kamau Murango hailed the governor for the efforts she put in ensuring that the project secured funding.
The Kerugoya MCA said that the project will go a long way in assisting residents of the rice-growing county.
“I am 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 its location,” he said.
(edited by o. owino)