Awards 1989 IBM Award for Sustainable Development

IBM Award for Sustainable Development

Booker Tate Ltd - Mumias Sugar Project, Kenya

In l97l, after four years of studies, the Kenya government commissioned Booker Agriculture International (now part of Booker Tate) to carry out the Mumias sugar project. The Mumias district of Kenya's Western Province was heavily populated but underdeveloped. Farmers grew subsistence crops on small plots, but most of the land was bush or rough grazing.

The Mumias Sugar Company (MSC) factory, mainly paid for by the Kenya government and the Commonwealth Development Corporation, with some British overseas aid, opened in 1973. It could then produce 45,000 tonnes of sugar a year. Half the cane was from MSC's nucleus estate, and half from small-farmer outgrowers whom MSC helped technically and financially.

The factory can now produce 220,000 tonnes of sugar a year, making it one of Africa's largest. The factory generates its own power by burning the bagasse left over after the cane has been crushed. Factory waste-water, after processing, is clean enough for fish to thrive in it.

About nine-tenths of the cane comes from 33,000 outgrowers, spread over an area the size of Greater London. The deep roots of cane and the ground cover it provides have protected the soil from erosion. Plant material is put back in the soil and fertiliser is used only to the extent it gives a clear advantage. Food crops were at first neglected but are now increasingly grown.

MSC has 5,400 permanent employees, with a further 9,200 casual workers who harvest the cane. More than 250,000 people depend on the project for their living. Initially, expatriates held most senior jobs. Now Kenyans head all five departments, the only expatriates being the general manager and agricultural workshop manager.

About 1,500 miles of roads and tracks have been built, with help from British overseas aid. Over 3,000 homes have been built, plus a social centre and a sports complex which provides a home for the Mumias first-division football team. The schools, assisted by MSC, achieve such good exam results that MSC gets job applications from people who want their children to go there. The project's profitability has made the social spending possible.

Mumias Town has expanded with banks, power, telephones, health care. Water supply is improved. The people of Mumias district take pride in the project and are determined to see its benefits passed on to their children.

See Kenya Resources