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    High Yield

    Breakdown of machines at the Muhoroni  and Chemelil Sugar Companies could affect the milling of sugarcane. The Muhoroni company was closed on its Friday last week after two of its mills stalled.

    Chemelil is also facing a similar end, if its machines are not serviced soon.

    “We have not serviced our machines in the past three years, and we are afraid that milling might stop if we cannot give them the maintenance needed soon,” said Chemelil receiver manager Fredrick Kabenei.

    Chalenging times

    The two companies have been going through financial strife.

    Muhoroni has been cash-strapped since 2014, when it almost closed its doors after lacking funds to settle a KSh500m debt. At the time, the company had 30,000 tonnes of unsold sugar and was still producing 150 tonnes daily.


    Most of the the debt, which was owed to the government, was written off with plans for a privatisation plan that would see Muhoroni merged with Chemelil, with the aim of maximising the output from about 100,000 acres of land on which the two companies sit.

    The plan would see the land leased to investors, and the machinery fully depreciated allowing investors to deploy modern technology .

    Industry report

    Kenyan sugar producers have been unable to effectively sell their produce to the markets, owing to an influx of cheaper sugar imports.

    According to the Oxford Business Group, 1 tonne of cane was worth KSh3200 in 2015, down from KSh4000 in 2003.

    “In basic economic terms, it costs about $600 (KSh60,000) to produce a tonne of sugar in Kenya, double that of other sugar-producing members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).”

    This play has allowed room for the entry of sugar from neighbouring countries, most of which also comes in through illegal channels, hence beating established taxation structures.

    Bigger producer

    Mumias Sugar has been  responsible for 30% of Kenyan production. Yet it lost KSh2.08bn in the latter half of 2014. The government, which owns a 20% stake in the company, gave it a KSh500m bailouts in January 2015 and a further KSh1bn in July of the same year.  

    The company was expected to get another KSh5bn in support towards the end of last year.

    But even with the financial injection, in August 2015, the company was reported to have lost half of its market share in four years.

    State-owned South Nyanza (SoNy) and Nzoia also saw their shares decline by 5% and 1%, respectively in the same period.

    READ ALSO: Sugarcane Farmers Use Beetles to Tame Pest

    But even with the situation in the markets appearing grim, private companies are trying to establish ground in the country.

    United States' Dominion Farms, for instance, is working on plans to set up a 5000-acre sugar plantation and processing plant in Siaya County.

    Dominion signed a 25-year lease with the local community for a 17,000-acre swamp, with hopes of converting it into arable land, in exchange for offering jobs to locals and buying cane from residents.

    Alteo, the largest sugar producer in Mauritius, also recently annouced completion of due diligence on acquiring a 51% share in Transmara Sugar Company.

    The Transmara sugar zone, located in Narok County, has been found to have the potential to yield sugar that is two to three times more that of some parts of western Kenya.  

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    Researchers hired by the UK government have objected a plan to donate 2 million home solar kits to poor Kenyans, most of whom are rural farmers. The Overseas Development Institute had been hired by the UK Department for International Development to evaluate the Energy for Africa Campaign, advised that an agreement between the Kenya Government and Canadian company Sky Power be put on hold awaiting consultation with other stakeholders in the solar industry.

    The researchers ruled that donations of solar kits to poor Kenyans will disrupt the industry, and proposed that beneficiaries be given financial assistance to purchase the kits.

    “Proposed giveaway of two million solar home kits by Canadian developer Sky Power as part of a larger solar infrastructure with the government could disrupt the off-grid business, especially solar sub-sector across Africa, leading to disinterest among locals and eventual withdrawal of funding by impact investors,” said the researchers, in a report.

    Show of gratitude

    The two million free solar kits by SkyPower gift came after the company signed a $2.2 billion agreement with the Kenyan Ministry of Energy and Petroleum during the sixth annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in Nairobi last year. In the deal, the Sky Power will develop 1 GW of solar projects .

    SkyPower also announced the gifting of two million SkyPower Home solar kits to people of Kenya.

    “SkyPower’s $2.2 billion investment will create more than 25,000 total job years in Kenya and includes 200 MW of fabrication and assembly facilities, as well as a commitment of US $173 million toward education, training, and research and development,” said SkyPower Executive Vice President Charles Cohen when the deal was announced in July 2015.

     SkyPower is majority owned by CIM Group, a U.S. based transformational urban real estate and infrastructure investment firm.

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    A university graduate has developed a cost effective bicycle-pedal-powered water pump for collecting water for small-scale irrigation and other domestic farms uses.

    Antony Kabui developed the equipment to support farmers who do not have electricity or cannot afford oil to run water pumps to meet farm needs.

    He says it is tedious, costly, and time consuming to engage a lot of labuor in fetching water from rivers, reservoirs,  in the farm.

    “The current methods of fetching water from wells or other ground sources, and transporting it are insufficient in many parts of the world. Other pumps are expensive to operate and maintain. This contributes to high costs of production for a farmer who needs water at the various points,” he said.

    Kabui uses a centrifugal water pump which is run by rotating the pedal of a bicycle. The power generated through the pedaling is used to lift the water and push it through a pipe to where it is needed.

    The pump's shaft is connected to the auxiliary rim of the back wheel, which has a V-shaped belt. During cycling, power is transmitted between the front gear wheel and the back sprocket. The power generated is also exchanged through the bicycle chain, the auxiliary rim and the pump shaft with the V-belt.

    Cycling enables the bicycle-pump to lift approximately 20 litres per minute from a well in case one is pedaling at the rate of between 50 and 70 cycles per minute.

    “The rate of lifting depends on the gradient from the source of water. drawing water from a well, or reservoir will not be the same as doing it from a river or pond. Similarly, the diameter and length size of the connecting pipe influences the speed of getting the water from one point to the other,” he said.READ ALSO: Water-pumping motor-cycle enters Kenyan market

    Pipes with smaller diameters would allow for more water to pass per minute.

    READ ALSO: Water-pumping motor-cycle enters Kenyan market

    Apart from the technical knowledge required in fixing the belts and pulleys, the Biomedical and Processing Engineering graduate of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology says, the equipment needs no expertise.

    The operator only need to be physically fit to cycle. 

    Having tested, identified and corrected most of the shortcomings, the Kiambu County's Kahawa Sukari-based innovator looks forward to commercialising the equipment, which he will be making upon order from any client.

    Kibui can be reached on +254700325000

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