RSS Entries ATOM Entries

2010 Ashden Awards: Sustainable solutions making good business sense

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on August 16th, 2010

Source: Forum for the Future

From “Sustainable solutions that make good business sense” by Martin Wright:

In a small farm on the hills above Nairobi, a slender woman in a flower-patterned headscarf is gently, politely shattering myths. Standing among the fruit trees on her shamba (smallholding), Mary Waringa Nguku dispels two of the most common clichés trotted out about the developing world. First, that people in Africa and elsewhere are too busy worrying about day-to-day life to share the West’s obsession with forest loss or climate change. “We cannot trust the weather any more”, she tells me. “It doesn’t rain like it used to, and the rivers are drying out. We do not always have the water we need… The forests are less, so we are going short of wood and it is more expensive. That is why, when I saw the biogas at my brother’s farm, and he told me how much money he was saving, I really wanted to give it a try.”

That last remark gives the lie to the second myth: that sustainable solutions always cost more than unsustainable ones. Mary is among over 200 customers of Skylink Innovators, a local Kenyan company which is installing biogas energy plants in the nation’s schools and even two of its prisons. The plants use a mixture of cow dung and human waste to produce cooking fuel via a process of anaerobic digestion (AD). It’s a well-established technology which tackles several problems at once: it provides clean fuel in place of smoky firewood for cooking; it helps to reduce pressure on dwindling forests and cuts out the greenhouse emissions from burning wood; and it saves people money. Once the biogas plant is in place, there’s no need for firewood. Many farmers save at least as much again on chemical fertiliser, too, as the nutrient-rich residue from the digester does the job just as well. Most plants pay for themselves in a couple of years. All of which makes it a sound business prospect for the likes of Skylink’s founder, Samwel Kinoti. “My father was a pioneer of biogas on his farm, so I grew up with it. I saw the beauty of it, and I knew others would, too.”

It’s this combination of entrepreneurship and environmental good sense which has won Skylink one of the 2010 Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy, presented by David Attenborough at a ceremony in London. The Ashden Awards celebrate local sustainable energy success stories in both developing countries and the UK. In doing so, they echo and amplify Mary Waringa’s mythbusting, turning the pursuit of sustainability from something worthy into pure common sense.

Read the rest of this article by Martin Wright on Green Futures for more about biogas, solar energy systems and community empowerment.

Comments are closed.