Kenya turns sugarcane waste into paper to preserve forests

NAIROBI – Kenyan companies are starting to produce paper from sugarcane waste in a move environmentalists hope will reduce illegal logging, reverse deforestation and help slow the effects of climate change.

Illegal logging has had a dramatic effect on Kenya’s forest cover, damaging local communities and their livelihoods, disturbing natural habitats and contributing to global warming.

But the use of bagasse – the fibrous matter left over after sugarcane has been crushed and the sugar extracted – in papermaking will help protect forests as well as provide jobs and opportunities for many in western Kenya, sugar makers and environmentalists say.

Countries like India, Mexico, the United States and Australia already use bagasse to make paper. In Kenya, production began on March 10 and is still on a small scale. But as one of sub-Saharan

Africa’s largest sugarcane producers, Kenya hopes the industry will grow to a large scale.

“We’ll be producing paper and selling it but at the same time we are helping the community preserve the tropical forests in this part of the country,” said Raju Chatte of Kibot Sugar and Allied Industries

Limited, a western Kenyan company that has invested more than $14 million to start producing paper from sugarcane waste.

“We aim to buy more than 480,000 tonnes of sugarcane waste from farmers and individuals each year. In the past, most of the sugarcane waste ended up as waste in trash bins of major towns that have factories,” he said at a recent event in Nairobi.

Kibot plans to partner with other organisations in its papermaking venture. Webuye Paper Company, a paper producer that a few years ago was on the verge of bankruptcy, has also begun making paper from cheap sugarcane waste

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