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Seeds of a growing friendship

By Edith Mutethya | China Daily Africa | Updated: 2018-03-02 09:31
William Zhou (right), chairman of Kenya Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Li Changhong, managing director of Kenya Eshine Agricultural Planting Co Ltd present donations to pupils. Liu Hongjie/China Daily

Residents of Kilome Constituency in Makueni County, one of the arid and semiarid zones of Kenya's eastern region, are a happy lot. They anticipate improved standards of living, thanks to Kenya Eshine Agricultural Planting Co Ltd, a Chinese company engaged in the planting, processing and export of agricultural products.

For the last four years, the company has been providing employment for between 30 and 200 people every day on its 25 acre farm in Kwale village. They are paid $4 per day.

The farm, about 70 kilometers southeast of Nairobi, grows Moringa oleifera, castor oil plants and Aloe vera.

According to Managing Director Li Changhong, plans are underway to construct three factories in the area, employing at least 500 people.

"I have bought land where the factories will be built. They will include a factory for processing of castor oil seeds, another for Aloe vera and the third one for Moringa. They should be in operation by the end of the year," he says.

Li says the farm, which he has rented for a term of 20 years, is 1,350 meters above sea level and dry, making it ideal for the plants being cultivated.

In 2017, Li exported 22 metric tons of Moringa seeds and 54 tons of castor oil seeds. This year, he aims to export 1,500 tons of Aloe vera, 50 tons of Moringa seeds and 54 tonnes of castor oil seeds.

Once the factory is up and running, Li wants to process and export over 500 tons of Moringa seeds, 400 tons of Moringa leaves, 100 tons of Moringa flowers, 3,000 tons of Aloe vera and 5,000 tons of castor oil seeds.

"I'm looking at processing and exporting 5,000 tons of Aloe vera and 20,000 tons of castor oil seeds per year," he says.

To help deepen his relationship with the local community, on Feb 24 Li donated stationery to a primary school near the farm.

Accompanied by members of the Kenya Chinese Chamber of Commerce, or KCCC, Li handed over exercise books, folders, pencils, rulers, sharpeners and balls worth Ksh250,000 ($2,455) to Kwale Primary School.

"By the end of the year I plan to donate 6,900 items of stationery. Most of my employees are parents of these pupils so I want to enhance my relationship with them," he says.

Speaking during the donation ceremony, KCCC Chairman William Zhou said the chamber had been encouraging its members to go beyond just doing business and support the community in an effort to deepen the China-Africa relationship.

"We are happy with what Li's company has done and we promise that in future we will provide food to the school and even offer scholarships to pupils. We are determined to work closely with Kenyan communities, as well as offer them job opportunities,"he said.

The school's Head Teacher David Mukiti expressed gratitude for the donation, saying pupils will now be able to improve their academic performance. "Kenya Eshine Agricultural Planting Co Ltd has boosted the efforts by the Kenyan government to enhance access to education," he said.

Mukiti said the school, which has 442 pupils, is located in the dry part of the country and suffered from inadequate classrooms and food scarcity. He called upon well wishers to help the school launch a relief feeding program.

The head teacher welcomed the Chinese company's plan to construct a factory in the area.

"Parents of my pupils will be able to access employment, hence improving their living standards as well as getting the finances to educate their children," he said.

Area Chief Daniel Munyao thanked Li for accepting the call by the community to help the school.

"The interaction between the Chinese people and the local community has boosted the people-to-people relationship and we wish to have more such forums, going forward," he said.

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