02-08-2021 by Leni Frau
Freeing lakes from a weed that restricts fish reproduction and at the same time creating biofuel to limit the use of charcoal in rural kitchens.
Here is a Kenyan initiative that simultaneously safeguards the environment, trade and the health of families.
Energy technology company Biogas International, in collaboration with Cambridge University's Institute for Sustainability, has launched the exciting project to enable households in and around Kisumu to switch from burning wood and using charcoal to biogas derived from hyacinth for cooking.
Trials have been conducted on fifty households who have been given stoves that feed on the weed that covers much of Lake Victoria.
The hyacinth is scraped from the lake, dried and pressed using methods similar to those for compacting rubbish, and then turned into briquettes that burn and heat food like coal, but without emitting smoke or odour and, according to the company, faster.
This will not only clean up the lake, which is suffering from the extinction of the noble freshwater fish that have been traded and eaten for centuries, but also reduce deforestation in the equatorial forests and improve the health of the elderly and children who breathe in the smoke from the 'jiko', the traditional charcoal cookers, often inside their huts or homes. In addition, the abundance of aquatic plants increases the number of mosquitoes, turning the lake shores into swamps where not only anopheles but also other insects can find their habitat.
The problem is that the stoves, at their current cost (about $600), are not only unaffordable for the majority of the population, so sponsors and donations will be needed to implement a long-term installment programme. On the other hand, for the initial cost, as well as improving health, the cost of 'cooking hyacinth' is much lower than that of charcoal and avoids the risk of being fined for cutting down plants.
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