KENYA – Geothermal Development Company (GDC), Kenyan government-owned energy company, is seeking to enhance food security in the country by facilitating the use of geothermal energy in farming.

The project targets farmers in Nakuru County, Central of Kenya, home of the largest geothermal plant in Africa.

To undertake the project, the Country government represented by Governor Lee Kinyanjui penned a Memorandum of Understanding with the energy company boss Jared Othieno, reports The Nation.

“We have entered into a deal with GDC. We want our farmers to use steam and technology in food production which will enhance food security and also create wealth for our people,” said Governor Kinyanjui.

In the deal, farmers will use geothermal energy in crop production, especially to heat greenhouses to accelerate growth of horticultural products.

Crops under geothermal-heated greenhouses are pesticide-free because the heat prevents the growth of fungi. Also, geothermal energy can be used to heat fishponds.

Steam and superheated water are normally used in some agro-industrial processes that require high temperatures such as milk pasteurisation and soil heating (of open-field plant root systems) among other functions.

In addition, the energy will also provide local farmers with reliable and cheap electricity for food industries.

According to Mr Kamau Kuria, Director at GDC, the direct use energy project, which started in 2015 and is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAid), will provide an instrument for establishing various collaborative initiatives that will save energy by up to 80 per cent compared to fossil fuels.

“The national government’s focus in the next five years is enhancing food security, manufacturing, provision of affordable housing and health services. The development of geothermal energy will plug in vital support,” said Mr Kuria.

Mr Kuria revealed that GDC is planning to drill more wells in densely populated farming areas in the region.

“We are opening up green fields mostly dreaded by the private sector and we want to turn them into bankable projects attractive to investors even as we support agriculture. Already, the Menengai geothermal project is actualising this model,” he said.

While the focus on geothermal power in East Africa has mainly been on electricity generation, experts in Kenya say that its potential goes beyond this into agriculture, health, tourism and hotel industries.

Nakuru County is banking on geothermal energy to power industrial reforms, restore the region’s lost glory and help in the realisation of the national government’s Big Four agenda.

The county is now on the brink of experiencing major flows of new investments following an unprecedented boom in geothermal energy exploration and production.

The investors are expected to tap into areas such as large scale green houses, meat processing plants and manufacture of geothermal gases such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide among other areas.

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