Spotlight: Mbaari Kinya (Ph.D.) Energy and environmental technology professional, Strathmore Business School, Strathmore University, Nairobi.

Date: 27 September 2017

Related Project: The Learning Network for Sustainable Energy Systems

Mbaari Kinya (Ph.D.) is an energy and environmental technology professional with over twenty five years’ experience. After several years working as senior government officer in the Renewable Energy Department of the Ministry of Energy, she is currently using the services of the Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (CIC) based in the Strathmore Business School at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya, which provides business incubation facilities for entrepreneurships that mitigate adverse climate change and environment degradation.

The LeNSes Project and its relevance?

I am currently involved in a project entitled "Making Washed Coffee Activities Sustainable: Transforming Processing Wastes to Energy, Bio-Fertilizer and Clean Water”.
Coffee production (specifically Arabica coffee) is one of the most important industries in Kenya; indeed Kenyan coffee dominates the global coffee market because of its high quality. It is a major earner of foreign exchange for the country. Unfortunately coffee processing has also led to serious environmental degradation.
The environmental degradation caused by the processing technology is serious, rendering the soil unproductive, and water unsuitable for human or livestock consumption, or for aquatic life. The challenges have taken the form of difficulties in finding a waste treatment methodology that is effective and affordable. The by-products of the wastewater treatment are valuable and add value to the original waste. This project is also relevant to the coffee industries in other East African countries, such as Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.

Steps to prevent environmental degradation have not been effective. The most common method is water re-circulation systems and sedimentation lagoons for the effluent. These steps are not adequate in preventing environmental degradation. The waste pulp also releases methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere. The polluted water seeps into the soil surrounding the lagoons. The effluent from washing stations is heavily loaded with organic matter. These effluents are discharged into water courses and exceed the self-purification of the water by microbial action. Oxygen is completely depleted making the water unfit for human or animal consumption. Such water is also toxic to aquatic life. The outcome, then, has been soil contamination, atmospheric degradation, and potential loss of valuable energy (biogas/methane).

How did you become involved?

I was invited to participate in a LENSES PSS training workshop at the University of Nairobi in 2015 because I was a member of the Kenya Renewable Energy Association (KEREA). I found the training to be practical and applicable to many types of technical projects. For this reason I accepted to take part in another workshop from the EPSRC funded project named "Design and Innovation tools to support SMEs in developing sustainable Product-Service Systems for energy access in African countries". The workshop was very valuable.

What are your expectations from the results?

The project we have designed will treat the coffee processing wastewater to produce biogas. We have selected a low-cost technology which will utilize both the effluent and the coffee pulp. The toxic effluent can yield considerable energy (biogas) and the process allows clean water to be released into the environment.  The coffee pulp will be composted as a bio-fertilizer or converted into a substrate for mushroom cultivation.

In summary the biogas will be used to generate electricity for the coffee station. Excess power will either be sold to the Kenya Power Company or distributed to nearby homes. Alternatively the excess biogas can be packaged as domestic cooking gas. Several scenarios for involving the community and other stakeholders have been examined, thereby not only making the project economically and environmentally sustainable, but also socially sustainable, that is a complete system.

Have you identified any impact to date?

The project that I am involved “Making Washed Coffee Activities Sustainable: Transforming Processing Wastes to Energy, Bio-Fertilizer and Clean Water” has been linked to the University of Nairobi through the LENSES project. The project has utilised the model introduced by the EUDLINK project and the project design has followed the LENSES "Product-Service System Design for Sustainable Energy for All". This has been a very positive influence and I believe will enhance the sustainability of our project.  

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