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Hima Cement, is looking to use alternative sources of energy to power its manufacturing plant in Uganda.
The cement firm is a subsidiary of Kenya’s Bamburi Cement and a member of multinational Lafarge Group.
The firm has rolled out a Ush2 billion ($783,570) project to increase production of coffee in the Rwenzori region, western Uganda, by providing seedlings.
Hima in turn will get coffee husks to use as an alternative energy source, thus reducing its reliance on fossil fuels such as coal, oil, natural gas or petroleum.
At least 14,000 disease-resistant coffee seedlings will be planted in the districts of Kasese and Kamwenge over the next five years, benefiting over 45,000 farmers.
“We are fully committed to building a sustainable business that is environmentally friendly. There is sufficient land for us to support coffee growth, and promote agriculture in this region,” said Lafarge East Africa CEO Hussein Mansi.
Hima Cement general manager David Njoroge said coffee husks are 10 times cheaper as an energy source compared with fossil fuels.
The plant currently uses 150 tonnes of coffee husks to generate electricity, representing 40 per cent of the plant’s energy requirements.
The remaining 60 per cent is supplied from fossils that cost $1,000 per tonne.
Of this current supply of coffee husks for Hima Cement, the Rwenzori region contributes only four per cent.
The region produces only 133,000 bags of Arabica coffee out of the country’s average of 690,000 bags exported every year, the bulk of which are the Robusta variety.
“This project will see the coffee growing acreage increase from the current 40,000 to 60,000 acres, and also double output as farmers substitute the old crop variety with the new ones,” said Kasese District Agricultural Officer Johnson Sabuni.
“However, farmers have had to deal with an outbreak of coffee wilt disease and soil infertility,” Mr Sabuni said, adding that this negatively impacted on crop production and farmers’ earnings.
It has been predicted that Uganda’s coffee earnings will drop after prolonged drought hit most of the country including Mount Elgon and neighbouring districts, where the Arabica variety is grown.
The drought affected coffee buds, struck down flowers and withered coffee plantations during the main season from September to February.
Last week, the Uganda Coffee Development Authority said the country exported a total of 187,592 bags of coffee worth $30.2 million for the month ending March 2012.
By ISAAC KHISA
The East African Newspaper
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