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Power of milk that dried up as KCC dreamed big

Commerce and Industry Minister Mwai Kibaki unveiling a plague during the opening of a new KCC plant, November 1968. [File, Standard]

There was a time pioneers who shaped Kenya’s infrastructure and industries dreamed big. The annals of history are full of such revolutionary dreams and although not all of them materialised, a number were actualised and, for a time, delivered Kenyans from darkness and want.

One such dream, which today might sound like a fanciful campaign promise, was a plan mooted by Kenya Co-operative Creameries 91 years ago to set up its own electricity generating system to power its factories and light up a number of towns.

The plans were unveiled by then KCC general manager JD Charter and sought a licence from the colonial government to generate hydroelectricity, just like another group of settlers had done in Nyahururu’s Thompson Falls.

KCC had proposed to supply electricity for public, industrial and domestic lighting from its generating station, which was to be located in Nanyuki.

Charter further clarified: “It is proposed to install generating machinery of description similar to that of the generating station of Kenya Co-operative Creameries limited at Thomson Falls.”

The plans were being made at a time KCC was a force to reckon with and some towns like Murang’a were being supplied with power from micro hydropower projects.

Missionaries were also lighting up their mission hospitals and schools using windmills and solar at the time.

A lot of water has since passed under the bridge. The windmills of the colonial settlers have ground to a halt and their micro electricity plants lie in ruins. KCC has gone through hell and back, chocked under the weight of debts, sunk with farmers’ milk and resuscitated.

KCC is no longer the giant that once monopolised milk production in its heyday when it was processing over a million litres daily, and the lights that once flickered at its factory in Nyahururu have since been dimmed.

Now like majority of other Kenyan manufactures and domestic users, KCC has to rely on the troubled Kenya Power. They, like millions of Kenyans, dream of a day when their homes and factories will be lit with clean, affordable energy. 

As has been promised by President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenyans hope they will no longer be coerced into paying inflated power bills should the mess at Kenya Power be solved once and for all.

As for KCC and power generation, all the farmers can hope is that one day the processor will think of a way of harnessing biogas and use it to power their factories and coolers so that they can get better farm gate prices.