15 October 2009

Kenya: Entrepreneurs Cashing in on Green Campaign

For several months now, Mrs Faustine Lutta has been trotting the globe offering free lessons anyone who cares to listen on how to operate her kit of solar cookers.

On the trips she also carries with her cooking ingredients like maize flour, water, peanut, pumpkin, rice and vegetables for preparing popular African dishes whenever doubting customers challenge her lectures.

Mrs Lutta is a field training officer with Solar Cookers International (EA), a small firm situated in Nairobi's Kileleshwa estate that represents the new face of enterprising Kenyans who are able to see a silver lining in the raging campaigns against climate change.

"I have recently been to Zimbabwe, Somalia, Norway, US and all the EAC countries promoting these kits and I'm glad that once in a while, groups come to make orders," says Mrs Lutta.

She sells one kit at Sh1, 200.

The kit is made up of a recycled paper with a reflective material fitted in the inner side, a sufuria (pan) painted in black and transparent polythene bags that are assembled in some predetermined order to cook food under direct sunlight.

Apart from fighting the smoke, the solar cooker requires minimal labour, she says.

"If for instance, you want to cook ugali, all you need to do is to mix flour and water in the ration of 1:1 and leave it on the cooker for two hours as you attend to other chores," she says.

While the Business Daily cannot vouch for the functioning of these equipment, Solar Cookers international joins a growing list of the new breed of small time entrepreneurs of the clean development mechanisms (CDMs) that are emerging in the country in the hope of stimulating behavioural changes that will not only protect the environment but also help in growing Africa's earnings in the in the post Kyoto world.

The lapse of Kyoto protocol by 2012 is expected to usher in a new compensation formula that the rich nations will use to finance Africa in offsetting the global warming spawned by industrial activities.

While rich nations largely shunned the Kyoto formula, developing nations are optimistic that the new deal to be signed in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December will open a new beginning in the geopolitical relations.

It is this hope that has jolted enterprising individuals and companies to come up with clean production methods.

In yet another climate change venture, Tetra Pak Ltd, the manufacturer of packaging materials has entered into a recycling agreement with Ekotech to collect and recycle all its used products.

The recycled material is then sold to those who use them to make boards and other construction material.

At the moment, Economic Housing Group (EHG) is using Tetra Pak's recycled materials to make prefabricated building materials, furniture, doors and windows for sale.

Tetra Pak's management says it is assessing the new venture which is anchored on the company's three pillars--reduce, reuse and recycle-- as a future income stream.

The company, he says, hopes to increase the recycling of its products by 30 per cent by next year.

"This is the new face of a sustainable Kenya for the future generation and we appeal to the government to make environmental awareness a mass movement by incentivising firms that engage in recycling," said Mr Anders Lindgren, Tetra Pak's managing director.

Only last year, the East African Breweries signed a Sh2 million partnership agreement with a waste recycling company --Greenloop International --to mop up all its used cans in Nairobi and other towns.

The money was from the brewer's Sh500 green goals fund that was established with the aim of significantly cutting its energy usage, pollution and as well as minimising the environmental impacts of all its products by 2010.

According to Mr Jai Shah, Greenloop's director, the company uses the recycled aluminum cans to make utensils and crockery for sale.

Several other CDM projects have also emerged in the countryside with community based organisations using wastes to make products for the export market as Kenyans seek to find their place in the global rush to lower carbon emission.

While a section of the local business community have warned that developed countries are planning to use the raging climate change debate to impose non tariff barriers on products from Africa, there is a new breed on the continent who see lucrative ventures in the green campaigns.

From energy sector to agriculture and manufacturing concerns, Kenyans are crafting ways of creating jobs and incomes in the post Copenhagen world.

"In this global warming, there are winners who need government incentives and losers who need to adjust their operations to suit changing times," says Dr John Mutunga, a member of the Kenya Climate Change Working Group.

Among the lucrative opportunities to be spawned by the greenhouse gas emissions is the development of simple technologies that communities can use to counter the pace of global warming.

But those already in such business claim, the government is not effectively leading the national campaigns to create awareness of climate change, a development that could stimulate demand for their products.

They also argue that as a leading buyer of goods and services in the country, the government needs to reserve a portion of its procurement requirement to groups that promote clean environment.

For Solar Cookers International which is already running several smokeless projects in Kisumu, Kakamega and parts of Eastern, the sight is set further beyond the national borders.

Within the country, Mrs Lutta reckons that the only major recognition that the company has received came a few months ago when some civil society groups ordered some 500 kits for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) living in Nairobi.

But now, firms that promote such technologies will get more incentives as the government acknowledges that climate change talks have an entrepreneurial side that Kenya needs international help to exploit.

"Kenya remains vulnerable and is in dire need of technical and financial resources to management crisis associated with global change," said environment minister John Michuki.

But losers in the anti-global warming campaigns are also seeking the world's attention.

For some time now, the local horticultural sector has been fighting plans by European Union to isolate goods that are transported into its market by means that pollute the environment.

The so-called carbon miles debate seeks to label goods according to the amount of smoke spewed into the environment to get to Europe.

While Kenya can only rely on airplanes that meander through many other geographical locations to transport her perishable fresh produce to Europe, carbon miles requirement would mean Kenya's organically produced exports do not rate anywhere near the artificially grown produce from destinations within EU that use less polluting means of transport.

Last week, tourism minister Najib Balala joined the fray when he decried the planned introduction of Air Passenger Duty tax on travellers by the United Kingdom as a measure to offset carbon emissions.

According to the new proposals, all passengers that board airplanes in UK are to be taxed for using transport means that degrade the environment.

Mr Balala said the tax which the UK authorities will levy by the end of this month will burden the tourists and reduce tourism demand especially for developing countries.

The Minister took his campaign against the new UK levy to Astana, Kazakhstan during 18th Session of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation General Assembly.

"This tax will negate the stimulus measures devised by some destinations like Kenya which recently reduced visa fees by 50 per cent plus a waiver for children less than 16 years travelling into the country in the hope of boosting tourism," he said.

But the Kenya Society for agricultural professionals (Kesap) wants the government to curb forest destruction to offset the carbon emission by certain aspects of agricultural production and marketing.

"The government needs not only to ban the importation and use of power saw to stop forest destruction but also to zero-rate timber importation," says Kesap chairman Paul Mbuni.

The government imposed partial ban on logging in the country's gazetted forests in 1999 but the import duty on imported timber remains 10 per cent to date

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