A local investment firm will launch agro-forestry manufacturing operations in Kwale County.
Asante Capital EPZ plans to set up wood processing mills with products such as plywood, veneers and charcoal briquettes for the local and international markets. The firm will also be involved in farming and has started growing ginger for export on a 40-acre parcel of land.
It will be the county’s third-largest investor, the other two being Kwale International Sugar Company and Base Titanium Resources.
Asante Capital Chief Executive Esther Mutuma said the firm has based its main operations in Kwale with two factories to be set up at Mvindeni because they have more than a decade’s presence here.
“We have our footprints in Kwale where we have done community-related development projects such as the Coast Coconut Farms which was later sold to American investors,” she said.
The company was formed in 2015 as a scale-up project of Asante Kenya Foundation after investors from France joined in.
Ms Mutuma said the first phase of the project has already cost more than $10 million (Sh103 million).
She said they have numerous eucalyptus plantations in the South Coast where three million trees are earmarked for planting by the 2019.
“These tree farms and the outgrower wood lots will provide the raw materials needed for our processing operations. We grow only trees that coppice, meaning that they will regrow after harvest,’’ said Ms Mutuma.
Asante Capital Chairman Louis Pope said they have entered into partnership with the Kenya Forestry Research Institute to identify commercially-viable tree varieties. They also have a contract with the South Coast Forest Association to buy 30,000 trees a year.
“At Asante Capital EPZ, we strive for a triple bottom-line impact. Our goals remain solely to improve lives,’’ said Mr Pope, adding that Kenya’s biggest asset is land, which has not been fully utilised.
The firm also plans to reach out to other tree-growing areas upcountry to provide the raw materials.
“We are upbeat that key infrastructure projects like road upgrade and the Standard Gauge Railway that connects Mombasa and Nairobi will come in handy in our operations as we seek raw materials and send products to market destinations within Kenya,” said Mr Pope.