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Tana River County plans to use 'mathenge' plant to generate electricity

Mathenge tree logs in Marigat, Baringo County being offloaded at a power company premises. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Mathenge tree logs in Marigat, Baringo County being offloaded at a power company premises. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Tana River county government is engaging investors to start using the "mathenge" plant, known by the scientific name prosopis juliflora, to generate electricity.

Speaking to the Nation, Governor Hussein Dado said residents have been using the tree which has since scattered across the country to make charcoal but the county has found out that it can be used to generate electricity.

“We have engaged several researchers and have discovered that the tree can be used to generate hundreds of megawatts,” he said.

The process of generating electricity will involve cutting the tree into chips, drying them and burning them at high temperatures under controlled amounts of oxygen.

The gas emitted will be used to run generators that will in turn produce electricity.

Invasive species

The invasive mathenge plant was introduced more than 30 years ago in dryland areas of Tana River County. It is also found in other counties such as Baringo, Garissa, Samburu, Marsabit and Isiolo.

The plant, which was introduced to mitigate loss of vegetation cover in dry lands, has had negative effects on livestock and indigenous species.

Mr Dado said the county government has been taking management control measures, but it has been difficult to control

“The tree has been producing very good quality of charcoal, [but] due to its nature, it has become almost impossible to eliminate it,” he said.

Solar energy

The governor said the county government intends to also venture into solar energy generation to generate electricity.

“We are already engaging some investors whom we will have a private partnership and generate electricity which we intend to talk to the national government to have it connected to the national grid,” he said.

Mr Dado said the county government has started various agricultural projects in Bula and Hola that will benefit local residents.

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