Kisii county on the verge of building sugar factory
Kisii is on the road to economic empowerment as it is set to be a modern county in sugarcane production.
This became a reality after the Senate commenced the process to enable Kisii Governor James Ongwae’s get land to set up a multi-billion Sugar factory by a private investor in the county.
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This latest development comes even as the National Lands Commission (NLC) promised to verify the documentation of the sought 120 acres of Nyangweta Forest before undertaking compulsory acquisition.
NLC chairman Prof Mohammed Swazuri and National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA’s Director General (DG) Prof Geoffrey Wahungu appeared before the Senate Lands committee chaired Mwangi Githiomi (Ndarangua) and gave their views on the impact of the project and its viability.
Governor Ongwae together with Senator Sam Ongeri (Kisii) and Silvanus Osoro (South Mugirango) rallied the senators to back the project by expediting the acquisition process, saying it will uplift the county’s economy.
Wahungu confirmed to the lawmakers that his office has already licensed 400 acres and urged the governor to seek variation to get clearance of the remaining acres.
“We have offered the land, which belongs to the county government to the Kenya Forest Service for gazettement and use, since as an administration we care about the ecosystem,” said the governor.
Similarly, the senators invited Environment Cabinet Secretary CS Keriako Tobiko is set appear before them next month to give opinion on the project as well as the investor ahead of a site visit in three weeks’ time.
“The NLC Should submit a comprehensive report the Senate. The commission should give advice on the way forward,” said Githiomi.
He continued, “We are only remaining with two people to appear before us to dispense off with this matter. The CS who will appear before us and the Indian investor, Kanoria Group.”
Ongwae informed the legislators that the investor is in India however will avail themselves when needed.
“On short notice of one week, the investor will be in the country. They are yet to open an office in Kenya which they plan to do once the stage is set. They are ready to do anytime,” indicated Ongwae.
Swazuri promised to give directions once his office is furnished with the necessary documents and this will determine whether the matter goes to the cabinet for approval or not.
“Once I am supplied with the information sought, I will table before the plenary for discussion and approval,” said Swazuri.
The DG said his office was satisfied with the information provided and approved 400 acres.
“We ask the acquiring entity (county government) to ask for variation. NLC will; advise. It shall not endanger species, the flora and fauna. The removal of the tress should be limited to the project area and leave possibility of planting more,” said the DG.
He added, “The Project site falls within a sugarcane zone and is compatible with the existing land uses.”
Githiomi, Senator Godana Harugura (Marsabit) and Senator Victor Prengei (nominated) lauded the county government initiative which Prof Ongeri said is environmentally centered.
“It will allow the local population to have market for their cane. It will also help in production of renewable energy, power and ethanol. We have also initiated the process of compensation. It is a giant step,” said Ongeri.
Osoro added, “This project is as a result of public demand.”
Once complete apart from sugar the factory, which will have a capacity to crush 5,000 tonnes of cane a day, it will produce 10 megawatts of power to the national grid and ethanol.
Ongwae sought Senate’s intervention through a petition to allow his administration take part of the forest that is at the centre of the sugar belt to accommodate the sugar factory, saying it’s the last resort.
The investor has already registered Kisii Renewable Energy and Sugar Factory Company Limited and will invest Sh5 billion to build the sugar factory.
Ongwae committed to planting more tress, saying his government has identified 13 parcels of land in different parts of the region, totaling up to 461 hectares which they want to trade in with the Nyangweta forest land.