Egerton University has finalized plans to build an agro-industrial park on 200 acres at its Ngongongeri farm in Njoro intended to attract private investors into establishing food processing plants that will add value on agricultural produce.
The Institution’s Chancellor Dr. Narendra Raval said establishment of the agro-industrial park is tailored to create employment opportunities, improve the livelihoods in agriculture dependent regions, reduce post-harvest losses, contribute to food security and accelerate economic growth in the country.
“We are partnering with state agencies, the Nakuru County government and the private sector to enhance the agro-processing sector – processed food, beverages, and livestock products as it is one of the engines spurring economic growth. It will integrate strategic infrastructure development, technological and agricultural practice innovation, and efficient and sustainable use of natural resources to fast track agro-industrial development of Kenya,” explained the Chancellor.
Dr. Raval petitioned the national government to invest more on agriculture. He further urged banks to support agricultural projects, including the proposed Egerton Industrial Park. Once completed, the university will be the first to have such a project.
The agro-industrial park will be supplemented by the Egerton Agro-Science Park, the only park in Kenya and among the 14 in Africa which was established in 2011 with the overall mandate of linking the university with industry in the promotion of innovations and products to be commercialized.
The Agro-science Park which focuses on agriculture, science and technology innovations in pursuit of sustainable agricultural development has been allocated 25 acres of land for research, demonstration and establishment of needed infrastructure for its operations.
Speaking during a meeting on the event, Governor Lee Kinyanjui said Egerton University agro-industrial Park will stimulate the development of the agricultural sector, for the possibility of establishing new manufacture of agronomic production, processing and sales of raw food materials.
“Through its interventions, the project will create increases in productivity for priority value chains, integrate rural producers and SMEs with commercial value chains and markets, and encourage the inclusion of informal economic actors into the formal system.
Besides leveraging public sector resources to increase private sector investment in Kenya’s agro-food and allied sectors, the agro-industrial park will promote local value addition, enhance the business climate to mobilize private capital, and integrate youth into agriculture as a business and source of employment. These will support economic diversification and building of green industries,” said Mr. Kinyanjui.
He asserted that the county will not spare any resources in ensuring the project becomes a reality.
“The industrial park is a great opportunity for young men and women to horn their skills and create jobs. The project will see investors set up industrial hubs as well as provide opportunities for Egerton University students to do research” noted the governor.
World Bank project director Sarah Ochieng said many countries had succeeded through creation of economic zones and industrial parks.
With the help of the project it is envisioned that there will be creation of a suitable infrastructure to attract investors, state support, arrangement of logistics, introduction of new technologies in the agricultural activities and the creation of a competitive environment.
“This agro-industrial park will provide opportunities for leasing of land, and essential services such as water and electric power supply, logistics, consulting, telecommunications, necessary infrastructure and other services. Development and management of the park will be subject to the University’s regulations and legal provisions”
At the moment most of our exports are raw materials and commodities such as Tea. We are also among the leaders in Africa when it comes to livestock, a traditional activity we are trying to modernize, as well as in fruits and vegetables. The agro-industrial park will ensure the surplus is processed and value added. We have a base on which to build and move forward” said the Chancellor.
Nakuru County Executive Committee Member for Agriculture Dr. Immaculate Njuthe Maina said priority sectors are light manufacturing, agro processing, textile and leather.
“These are sectors that we need the agro-industrial park to develop for export and will be drivers of the economy. Agriculture is set to transform from subsistence into modern agriculture. There are investment opportunities in harvesting technologies and agro-mechanization. Nevertheless all stakeholders should ensure reliable supply of electricity, availability of skilled labour and proper road and rail network to make the project a reality,” she stated
Kinyanjui affirmed that with the onset of devolution, the County has gradually recovered with improved infrastructure and more private investments.
“We have incorporated public-private partnerships in setting up key projects such as the Oserian Industrial Park, Kengen Textile City Park, Lord Egerton Agri-City, and Kabarak University Smart city,” explained Kinyanjui.
According to Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), currently, the county has an unemployment burden of 675,000 young people competing for limited opportunities.
With its rich agricultural highland hinterland, the region serves as a major source of raw materials for industries.
Geographically, Nakuru town is centrally located and is therefore more accessible from other corners of the country.
The governor says past and forthcoming international investment conferences hosted by the county seek to lure investors to its vibrant agricultural sector and add value to its unique products, with a view to accessing foreign markets including East African countries.
“We are also exploring direct use of steam from Africa’s largest geothermal power plants at Menengai and Olkaria for small and medium level agricultural enterprises as an initial step towards setting up of cottage industries.
No country has ever grown without industrialization. This is why the Government has prioritized the manufacturing sector under the Big 4 Agenda. The programme we have launched provides information on key areas the manufacturing sector would like the government to focus on, in order to drive the competitiveness of industry,” stated Kinyanjui
The governor said improvement of road infrastructure including construction of two interchanges along the Nairobi-Nakuru-Eldoret and the proposed standard gauge railway line to Naivasha will ease transportation to and from the County, which he said was vital for industrialization.
“We will be pushing for productivity of the County through development of policies and enactment of laws that will make it profitable for local companies to export again, boosting their capacity to expand within the country and focusing on Small Medium Enterprise growth and productivity.
Some of these policies must promote the competitiveness of local industry, encourage value addition and diversity of locally manufactured products,” said the governor.
By Anne Mwale