Close to 300 cassava farmers under the Mbuvo Commercial Village Cassava plant in Kathonzweni, Makueni County are set to benefit from a solar power project funded by the World Bank through the Kenya Agricultural Productivity and Agribusiness Project (KAPAP).
The off grid solar power project constructed at the cost of Sh8.7 million at Mbuvo trading center will operate the high powered equipment installed in the cassava plant for milling and baking purposes besides providing power to the local establishments like shops where feasible.
According to Makueni Regional Service Unit (RSU) Coordinator Esther Wambua the plant will have a power output of 16.5 kilowatts and an expected energy production of 128,146 Amperes per day and will replace the use of diesel and petrol hence reducing the production cost of the cassava commercial plant drastically.
Ms. Wambua added that the construction of the power plant is complete and will soon be fully commissioned and handed over to the community for management.
“All the works that included the installation of the solar panels and construction of the building to host the plant is complete and operational,” she said.
The RSU coordinator said the project was necessitated by the need to link and integrate electricity and others forms of energy to achieve KAPAP’s ultimate goal of enhanced agricultural productivity.
“For improved agricultural output to be achieved several factors are involved among them increased efficiency, enhancement of the value of the produce and energy is also a key input that can improve farm productivity,” said Ms. Wambua.
She added the cassava commercial village had improved livelihoods for area residents and since the town lacked electricity to run the plant, solar power was the only viable option for providing cheap, efficient and sustainable source of power.
“The area classified as semiarid is endowed with solar energy, that could be harnessed to provide power for increased productivity and other uses,” she said.
Area Chief Mr.Joseph Masyuki who is also the chairperson of the cassava umbrella farmer group said the power plant would enhance production and improve the social economic status of the members.
“The milling machine that lay idle due to lack of electricity is now operational with the cassava plant now producing 300 kilograms of cassava flour per day,” he said.
The cassava commercial village plant was established in 2010 through KAPAP with the main objective of improving food security in the famine riddled semi-arid region through growing and value addition of suitable crops like cassava.
Some of the products produced by the plant include cassava flour, cakes and mandazis that are sold to the locals.