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Rice husks to be used in the manufacturing of ceiling boards

By Munene Kamau | Published Mon, February 19th 2018 at 00:00, Updated February 18th 2018 at 23:31 GMT +3
A rice husks disposal site worker Mugendi Kiava lights up the commodity near Murubara village, Mwea. Notice his bare feet despite the hot fire beneath the sludge. [Photo: Munene Kamau/standard]

In summary

  • County has four main rice millers and over 200 small-scale factories
  • These will be used to produce, among other things, hay for dairy cows, block boards and ceiling boards

For many years, Mwea Irrigation Scheme farmers have grappled with disposing of rice stalks and husks, which take a long time to decompose.

For more than 60 years, since the formation of the Mwea Irrigation Board, farmers have had to burn the stalks and husks, which presents another challenge - producing too much ash.

But this will no longer be the case after it emerged that the two by-products will soon start earning farmers extra cash.

Rice stalks will now be used to make hay, thanks to a partnership the county government has announced it is pursing with a private firm.

On the other hand, Deputy Governor Peter Ndambiri said, the husks will be used to make block boards and ceiling boards, among other products.

Production of hay, in particular, is set to be a multi-million-shilling business given the shortage of pasture due to prolonged drought that has hit many parts of the country.

Rice stems

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Farmers say the demand for rice stems is already high due to the drought, even though their nutritional value is low.

"We have been forced to take the husks away from the mills to avoid heaping them because they don't rot. The miller has to ensure that the husks are taken far away before they are burnt, which means additional costs," said Morris Mutugi, a local farmer.

"We are happy with the recent announcement by the county government that there are plans to enter into a partnership with a private company that will see the tonnes of husks used to make various products."

Speaking over the weekend, Mr Ndambiri said the county government was concerned that rice husks were burnt. 

"We have consulted with experts who have assured us that husks from rice can be used to make block boards and ceiling boards, among other products. We are pursuing the matter as this will mean extra cash for farmers," he said.

Crop scientist John Kimani said rice husks could also be used to produce high charcoal briquettes, which are environment friendly.

“I think our farmers have been sitting on a gold mine. Rice husks have many uses, including cement manufacturing. I think the county government is moving in the right direction by helping farmers add value to the byproducts of rice,“ he said.

Dr Kimani, who is also the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) Mwea Centre director, said the husks could also be used in tree nurseries.

"The husks provide a loose texture ideal for root development in a nursery before a farmer transplants the seedlings," he said on Sunday.

 Charles Njiru, who runs a milling factory, said adding value to the husks would also save millers a lot in costs.

Making charcoal

He said he even began making charcoal but abandoned the venture due to high costs. 

"The charcoal was of good quality but very few people could afford it. That is why I abandoned the venture,” said Mr Njiru.

The Kalro centre in Mwea has also started manufacturing charcoal briquettes, according to Kimani, but the product is yet to be commercialised.

Bran, which is used as animal feed, is another by-product of rice

There are four main rice milers in the county owned by the National Irrigation Board, National Cereals and Produce Board, Nice Rice Milers and the Mwea Multipurpose Sacco.

The county also has more than 200 small-scale rice millers.

Meanwhile, working in a husk disposal site is difficult because of the intensity of heat.

Mugendi Kiava, 28, who works at such a site on the outskirts of Ngurubani town, said the husks produced a lot of dust that was harmful to health.

Mr Kiava's main job is to offload the husks from lorries and burn them. This earns him Sh300 per day.

“While this is an open dumpsite for husks, it is the responsibility of every miller to ensure proper disposal of what comes from their facilities. That is what the millers pay me to do" he said.

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