Our Farm Blog

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Renewable Energy and Renewable Firewood Sourcing

In a lecture given at the Royal Agricultural College in 2012, Cirencester, Professor John Sulston, stated how the planet and its resources are finite and that it was no longer an option to invest in renewable energy sources but a necessity. A view that we agree whole heartily with.

For the past five years we have been actively engaged in securing our own source of firewood from gum plantations to enable us to operate our factories with the desired high voiumes of green leaf. The cycle of these gum plantations from planting to harvest is approximately 12 years. By the end of 2015 we hope to have secured sufficient areas on our own land to manage our factories responsibly with our own sources of gum trees. When we buy firewood, which is a costly operation, we only buy from mature sustainable gum plantations. Regrettably this is not always the case with our competitors. More factories in Kenya are opening and being granted manufacturing licenses. These factories do not have a secured supply of sustainable firewood and we often view immature and unseasoned wood from indigenous or unsustainable sources being sold, even on the roadsides.

This practice was recently highlighted by a quick witted journalist in a newspaper article and our trade body the KTGA has taken up the matter with the appropriate authorities. The lack of sustainable firewood to power our boilers and the lack of cost effective alternatives places a heavy restriction on the future growth of the Kenya Tea Industry.

The Commission of Sustainable Agriculture lists a number of essential reforms need to ensure the long term viability of operations and systems. Amongst these are the need to trap carbon and this combined with the rising cost of essential inputs such as electricity has meant that we have made the decision to invest into a large scale Solar Photovoltaic system at Changoi. The aim is to provide sufficient power to run the factory entirely from solar energy during daylight hours and we view this investment into solar technology as an essential part of our business operations to ensure it our sustainability.