Sasini PLC, a public company that majors in the growth and processing of tea, coffee, avocado and macadamia nuts, could in the near future say bye to the use of electricity, which comes with huge bills and high maintenance costs.
This was evident on Monday, February 6, 2023, when the company commissioned the use of solar energy in one of its tea factories in Nyamira county at the Kipkebe tea factory.
The factory is one of the many various factories spread across the country to lead in the use of green energy that will see saving of over 50% of the factory costs on running it.
According to the Sasini Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Martin Ochieng’, the solar power project will produce about 1,300 kW of power, which will be sub-divided to run the two tea factories, Keritor and Kipkebe, both based in Nyamira county.
He said the project would help cut down tea production costs. With nearly 65% of the company’s tea leaves to the two factories being supplied by out-growers, the suppliers will now get better returns.
“65% of our green leaves are sourced from out growers who are local farmers and this solar power will help in producing the black tea at lower costs than using electricity.
The tea can then be sold at high prices and our farmers get better returns, which could have helped us serve our customers better,” said Ochieng’.
The CEO noted that power usage was an issue and that introducing renewable energy will see the factories supplemented by about 30% energy for consumption.
Ochieng’ noted that the mother company was committed to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and more specifically, SDG 7, which is about affordable and clean and renewable energy.
“What is driving us is to leave the world a better place than we found it by generating power from renewable resources that cannot mess with the environment; we should make the world habitable for all,” he added.
The CEO urged other companies to follow suit and embrace green energy by taking advantage of being at the equatorial region where solar energy has not been a challenge.
“We are lucky to be at the equatorial region where solar energy is available for tapping. The problem has been people lacking ability to invest in solar stations that can generate power which, at times, can be a bit expensive to install. But this is the way to go, the future is green energy,” added Ochieng’.
On whether the company will stop using wood fuel by cutting down eucalyptus trees to conserve water sources, the CEO said that the company is still embracing the use of wood fuel in drying of tea and firing up boilers as it is the best way to generate steam.
“The solar will supplement the energy put into the factory. The wood fuel is for firing up the boilers and drying of the green tea and is sustainable program that has been in use since inception. It’s the best way to generate steam for boilers to dry the green tea,” the Sasini CEO explained.
Ochieng’ also noted that the company is not too focused on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as one of its main agendas.
He said in the 17 SDGs, CSR is a very small aspect of it as the goals are aimed at helping the community and the company better and sustainably and conserving the environment.
“We are focused on being sustainable and not much into CSR. However, we sink boreholes in neighboring communities, build and equip health facilities for our staff and schools in all businesses across the company. CSR comes as a fruit of being business sustainable,” he added.
Julius Motaroki is General Manager (GM) for RENTCO renewable energy limited, which was contracted to install and set up the solar stations at the Kipkebe tea estate.
He says that they intend to support business growth and that the solar station supplementing the factory with over 30% of power demand can save up to 50% of the cost of the national grid.
“As a business supporting sustainable business growth and with our partners, Sasini PLC, this is exactly what we have done with this plant,” he explained.
Motaroki noted that Africa is estimated to be receiving up to 8 hours of solar per day, which is very important at this time globally and can be quite sustainable if harnessed, which can be affordable compared to other sources of power.
“It’s quite sustainable especially if we are able to harness it during the 8 hours each day which can be very affordable compared to other sources of power,” said Motaroki.
He said the project is also environmentally friendly as it can offset carbon footprints or general greenhouse gases annually.
“The 650 Kilo Watts solar power for Kipkebe tea factory is able to offset about 35,000 tons of carbon dioxide gas (CO2) or general greenhouse annually, which is a good thing for the environment and a good reason for all of us to join hands and take care of our climate and reduce global warming,” said Motaroki.
He urged the government to embrace green energy in industries and other agro-based productions to avail cheaper power while protecting the environment.
“We are sending a message to the country that with this kind of project replicated for such agro-based production and other industries, we can avail cheaper power while protecting our environment,” noted Motaroki.
The projects can also be a good source of employment for contractors and security and maintenance teams.
Kipkebe Limited also commissioned Yana Cottages, a hospitality facility that provides services to the staff and local tourists visiting the tea estates. It is complete with guest houses, hotels and restaurants.
The Managing Director for Kipkebe Tea Factory, Mr. Silas Njibwakale, observed that the factory has made positive strides since he took over in 2019.
“This tea factory and estate have come a long way; I took over when the company was making huge losses in 2019.
I’m happy that through the cooperation between the company and the surrounding community, we have made huge strides and now the factory is stable. We are geared towards making the company sustainable,” he said.
Sasini PLC is listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange with about 7,000 shareholders, mostly Kenyans.
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The major activities of this company are growing and processing tea, coffee, avocado, and macadamia nuts, value addition in the form of branding and packaging of the related products for the local retail market, and exports.
The company also operates an Export Processing Zone (EPZ) and tea warehousing services at Mombasa port.