Lack of water has delayed the commissioning of the multi-million Galole Integrated Fruit Processing Plant in Tana River County.
Coast Development Authority (CDA) had hoped to commission the factory before the April-June mango season, but lack of the precious commodity and other logistics made this impossible, an official has said.
CDA’s Tana River County Coordinator, Mr. Abdninoor Osman said the works at the factory, which is located in Boji area of Galole constituency, were 99 percent complete, but there was no water to operate it since boreholes sunk in the area had produced saline water.
“The water that we get from the boreholes is too saline, and experts have told us that it is impossible to desalinate it for use at the plant,” he said adding that the factory relies on a water bowser, whose capacity cannot match the demand for water.
He said the factory gets water from the Hola Water Works about 25 kilometers away and even there, factory workers are not allowed more than two trips due to the low water volume at the treatment works.
The only hope for the Sh123 million plant is a Sh40 million water project being implemented by Coast Water Works Agency (CWWA), which is still at the initial stages of implementation despite being behind schedule and is unlikely to supply water to the plant any time soon.
The Tana River County Development Implementation and Coordination Committee toured the plant and the water project site in Kelokelo area Tuesday and expressed fears the delay in implementing the water project would hamper the operations of the multi-purpose fruit processing plant.
The committee, which was led by its chairman, County Commissioner Oning’oi ole Sosio, called on the Coast Water Works Agency (CWWA) to speed up the implementation of the water project to enable the Coast Development Authority (CDA) to start operating the plant.
The committee also directed the water agency to force the contractor implementing the water project to replace an elevated water tank at the factory, which members noted was structurally and physically unsound.
Members wondered why the water agency had allowed the contractor to install the faulty tank and even approved the same for payment.
The committee learnt that the contractor had sunk three boreholes at Kelokelo area, about ten kilometers from the fruit plant, but the capacity of two of the wells was too low while the third borehole was yet to be test-pumped to ascertain the amount of water it contains.
A technical officer with the water agency said the state corporation had been forced to sink another borehole at the same site with the hope of getting enough water.
He told the committee that the contractor had stopped work to pursue a Sh17 million debt with the National Treasury for work already done. The project is being funded under the Equalisation Fund for marginalised counties.
“The contractor has been pursuing his initial payment of Sh17 million from the National Treasury, which has not been forthcoming, hence the delay,” Mr. Dima, who also led the committee on a tour of the water wells at Kelokelo, said.
County Commissioner Oning’oi ole Sosio said the committee was satisfied with the work that had been done at the factory, saying that public funds had been properly expended.
“We have also toured the water intake point and found that two boreholes sunk there had yielded little water. Another one had been sunk but it had not been test-pumped to ascertain the amount of water it can yield while another is yet to be sunk,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Osman told the committee that CDA had received Sh61.5 million of the allocated Sh123 million, which had enabled it to install a new mango pulping machine and construct storage facilities, a workshop and a utility building.
“CDA has already purchased and installed the machinery and equipment as well a bus to ferry staff to and from Hola Town.
The factory’s main objectives are to reduce post-harvest losses to mango farmers in Tana River, enhance farmers’ income and creation wealth.
Mr. Osman said the mango pulping machine had a capacity to crush 1.5 metric tonnes per hour with a possible expansion to 5 metric tonnes per hour.
“The main product will be puree/pulp which will be packed aseptically for both local and export markets,” he said adding, “The project will provide market outlets for 5,000 farmers’ agricultural fruit products through value addition.”
The project, he said, would support the rural economy and create several linkages that will promote self-employment.
“It will stimulate improvement of infrastructure in general and open up the hinterland,” he said adding that the project would provide direct employment to 25 permanent staff and 30 casual workers as well as 1,500 indirect jobs to the youth and women,” he said.
The fruit plant stalled in 2014, barely one year after it was officially launched at a colourful ceremony in Mombasa.
The CDICC also toured the Boji Farmers Irrigation Scheme in which CDA intends to spend Sh128.75 million. Mr. Osman said the CDA had already received 64.38 million from the National Treasury and work was ongoing.
By Emmanuel Masha