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Four Kenyan start-ups feted for sustainable innovations

A farmer in Othaya, Nyeri County testing their biogas digester. /FILE
A farmer in Othaya, Nyeri County testing their biogas digester. /FILE

Four innovative start-ups from Kenya were on Wednesday honoured with the 2016 SWITCH Africa Green - SEED Awards.

Women run Dagoretti Market Biogas Latrine” (SEED Gender Equality Winner) that is community-based initiative won was among the winners.

The initiative uses renewable energy production - namely biogas and solar - to enable women entrepreneurs run a restaurant and catering business, as well as a toilet, hot showers, and solar-based phone charging and M-Pesa services.

The group plans to add laundry and water kiosk facilities.

The innovation is a combination of activities that creates synergies, such as converting toilet waste into biogas used on-site.

The group form part of a group of 20 Award winners from 8 African countries whose business models help to overcome challenges associated with sustainable development in those countries.

The Green Road Ltd, which is piloting an innovative material called polymerised bitumen, made from plastic waste and asphalt, to construct durable roads in Kenya, was also honoured.

The enterprise sources plastics collected by urban women and youth under formal employment with pension and health care benefits, while reducing plastic pollution as well as the land filling and burning of plastic waste.

Another start-up that received recognition is Magiro Hydro Electric Limited” (MHEL) which has developed an innovative small scale 30 kW hydropower plant in Mihuti Village.

The plant is solely composed of locally available standard engines, recycled bicycle parts and generates electricity from a local waterfall.

The company supplies electricity at highly affordable prices to local villagers who have relied on firewood and kerosene as main sources of energy. In the village, over 75 per cent of the population has no connection to the national grid, and MHEL helps to bridge this gap.

An award was also conferred to Safi Organics, an initiative that provides organic fertiliser from waste sourced from rural smallholder farmers and markets the product back to them.

The Safi Sarvi® blend is transformed into soil conditioner through an innovative low-cost production with reduced processing time. The product contributes to soil carbon storage while improving soil fertility and increasing farmer yields by 30 per cent.

The winners are set to receive technical assistance and six months of free, tailor-made support to develop their business.

Founded in 2002 by UN Environment, UN Development and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the SEED global partnership recognises the most innovative, environmentally friendly start-ups in developing countries and provides them with technical support and business know-how to help them grow and share their experiences.

Helen Clark, Head of UN Development said: "The 2016 SEED Winners are living the SDGs.

"With their innovative business models, they are improving local livelihoods while conserving natural resources. Their businesses rely on strong multi-stakeholder partnerships at the local level, a success factor UNDP is building upon internationally to implement the Sustainable Development Goals,”she said.

The winners were honoured at the International Awards Ceremony held at the SEED Africa Symposium in Nairobi, Kenya.

The symposium brings together over 500 entrepreneurs, policymakers, and representatives from civil society and support institutions from across Africa and beyond. The 2016 edition's theme is "From Innovation to Imitation - Replicating Successful Business Models for Green Growth and Sustainable Development".

This year's 20 SEED Award winners include companies and cooperatives from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa and Uganda whose business models help to overcome sustainable development challenges of those countries.

By facilitating the scale-up and replication of eco-innovations SEED boosts local economies and tackles poverty, while promoting the sustainable use of natural resources and ecosystems.

The 2016 SAG-SEED Awards are sponsored by the SWITCH Africa Green Project implemented by UN Environment and funded by the European Union. A special SEED Gender Equality Award aimed at promoting gender equality and women's empowerment will go to a community-based initiative in Kenya, which uses renewable energy to enable women entrepreneurs run a restaurant and catering, and offer sanitation and phone-charging services.