By Titus Too
Moi University has launched its new natural dye invented from a weed.
The innovation will boost fabric production at Rift Valley Textiles (Rivatex) Company in Eldoret that was taken over by the university in 2007.
The company had been dormant for over ten years after its collapse in mid-1990s. After takeover, it has been relying on dyes imported from Italy, India and South Africa.
The product – TAMI Dye – was developed from the weed, Marigold Tagetes Minutas after a three-year research led by Moi University Vice-Chancellor Prof Richard Mibey.
He was assisted by Rivatex Managing Director David Tuikong and Mr Billy Makumba. Mibey said Rivatex produces 20 kilometres worth of material per day but its revenue has been low. "We have been spending Sh18 million in importing dyes for the manufacture of fabrics. With the new product, operation costs will be lowered," said Mibey.
The new development, the don said, would also boost business in tailoring sector and cotton farming.
Mibey is reputed for his contributions to the discovery of environmentally friendly micro-organisms (fungi) for bio-control of the obnoxious water hyacinth weed in Lake Victoria.
Higher Education minister Prof Margaret Kamar graced the launch of the dye at Moi University main campus in Eldoret on Tuesday. Also present were Moi University chancellor Prof Bethwel Ogot, council chairman Evan Mwai, Prof Abdulrazak Shaukat of National Council of Science and Technology, Prof Adipala Ekwamu of Makerere University among others.
The Standard Group Director, Value and Innovations Francis Munywoki and Senior Business Manager James Sogoti also attended the function. Henry Mutai, MD Kenya Industrial Property Protection Institute (Kippi) said the innovation would be patented for protection.
Ogot said there is need to develop laboratories in universities for production of quality graduates and also for research purposes.
The chancellor called for more funding from the Government. He said local researchers are relying largely on foreign bodies to develop research ideas.
He also appealed to Government and universities to reward researchers who come up with innovation ideas.
Kamar said the government has allocated Sh400 million this financial year to support universities in research to reduce over-reliance on imports. "We cannot afford to be consumers of imported products because we may even end up consuming rejects. It is surprising even matchboxes from abroad are stocked in our supermarkets," said the minister.
Kamar praised the new discovery by Mibey saying, "We have been weeding marigold for years in our farms but its value has now been discovered". She said more focus would be put in the development of laboratories in universities to ease research work. Mr David Magwaro, who represented PS Ministry of Industrialisation said revival of Rivatex has contributed into the revamping of textile industry.