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Date: Monday, 21 Apr 2014 23:13
In Agriculture:
The most distinguishing aspect of OSSI, it is the idea that genetic resources – in the form of seeds- are going to be set aside for humanity to use in any way it sees fit. These genetic resources cannot be patented or otherwise legally protected, making them essentially available in perpetuity in a protected commons. If they were just in a regular commons, people could obtain them and protect them, but in this commons they mustremain free. Hence the phrase “Free the Seed!”
Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "agriculture, education, horticulture, Op..."
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Date: Sunday, 20 Apr 2014 20:10
In Dezeen:
In this movie designer and materials researcher Shamees Aden explains how "scientists are now mixing together groups of chemicals [to make] them behave like living cells. They are able to reconfigure, they are able to adapt to light, pressure and heat."...The synthetic production of living materials is so far limited to basic applications – modifying the behaviour of oil droplets in a water solution, for example – but Aden has developed a proposal that uses protocells to make self-regenerating soles for a pair of running shoes.
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Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "design, diaspora, diybio, fashion, indus..."
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Date: Monday, 14 Apr 2014 10:18
In VC4Africa Dan Evans discusses an initiative to map and determine what drives startup ecosystems:
We all live and work in a world made up of complex adaptive systems, each of which can be represented by various forms of networks. Our team has developed an innovative, yet simple, technique that allows us to develop quantifiable entrepreneur networks. This technique, known as the ‘Position Generator’, models the connections of roles in the local community. By analyzing the entrepreneur’s connections to prominent structural positions in the community or society, our team is able to develop powerful insights that inform policy recommendations.

Our model is a quantitatively derived network that enables us to accurately assess the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. This methodology identifies the most influential roles in the ecosystem, and allows us to compare and contrast different local communities.
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Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Business, education, entrepreneurship, I..."
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Date: Sunday, 13 Apr 2014 19:40
Senai Wolderufael founder of Feed Green in conversation with HowWeMadeIt:
Wolderufael and his business partner, Eyob Weldegabriel, started Feed Green Ethiopia Exports with less than US$2,000 startup capital. The company has since found new export markets for its spices and processed food products in Africa, and has also recently decided to start exporting Ethiopian coffee. How we made it in Africa speaks to Wolderufael about the potential he sees for the business in Africa, and what it is like to be a young entrepreneur in Ethiopia.

When you initially started your company, you were catering purely to the Ethiopian diaspora but have since started exporting your spices to other African countries. Tell us about this potential.

We were targeting Ethiopian restaurants all over the world, shipping them processed food products and spices. We then moved onto international clients who are not Ethiopians, shipping them internationally known spices like black cumin, caraway seeds, ginger and the like. We started to learn that some African countries actually import some of these spices from Asia, which we can easily supply at good quality and at a better price. We now know that even Africa is a huge market for our products. So this led us to [see] the huge potential market some African countries like Nigeria and Ghana possess, so we also started [focusing] on that too.
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Also covered in Forbes
Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "agriculture, entrepreneurship, food, pro..."
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Date: Sunday, 13 Apr 2014 16:43
VC4Africa reports:
The African Innovation Foundation announced the finalists of the prestigious Innovation Prize for Africa 2014. Ten African innovators have created practical solutions to some of the continent’s most intractable problems, from a domestic waste biogas system to a wafer matrix for paediatric antiretroviral drug treatment.

They are:

• Ashley Uys (South Africa) - OculusID Impairment Screening

The OculusID Impairment Screening device is designed to measure pupil response to light emissions. The pupil response can then be measured against pre-determined benchmarks. These benchmarks are applied to measure substance abuse, physiological defects and even fatigue. The device is a far less invasive procedure than existing methods.

Daniel Gitau Thairu (Kenya) - Domestic Waste Biogas System

The Domestic Waste Biogas System is a new type of biogas digester which utilizes any material capable of decomposing instead of relying on animal dung to generate gas. Materials that can be used include dirty water, leftover food, spoiled grain, and vegetable and fruit peelings. This makes biogas usable even by households that cannot afford animals.

• Elise Rasel Cloete (South Africa) - GMP Traceability Management Software CC

This software is programmed to capture, store and trace data about livestock and enables data to be captured in real-time. The data is then stored in an ear tag placed on livestock and backed up on a remote server.

• Joshua Okello (Kenya) - WinSenga

This innovation is a low-cost mobile phone based antenatal diagnosis kit that captures foetal heart beat sounds and provides diagnosis which is sent to the mother through SMS. The data can also be uploaded to cloud storage.

• Logou Minsob (Togo) - Foufoumix

This is a device designed to replace the mortar and pestles used in preparing the popular West African dish, foufou. The “FOUFOUMIX ” is a small electrical food processor that allows generates discreet, quick and hygienic foufou in 8 minutes, substantially reducing the amount of time needed to prepare the dish, while also enhancing the hygienic conditions during production.

• Dr. Nicolaas Duneas (South Africa) - Altis Osteogenic Bone Matrix (Altis OBM™)

Altis OBM is the world’s first injectable bone-graft product containing a complex mix of various bone growth compounds derived from porcine (pig). It is used to stimulate the host’s own tissue regeneration system in a way that leads to the healing of a fracture or bone void, much in the same way as occurs in a normal unassisted fracture healing processes.

• Maman Abdou Kane (Niger) - Horticultural tele irrigation

The “Horticultural Tele-Irrigation system is a technological process that allows growers to remotely control their market garden irrigation system through a mobile or landline regardless of geographic location.

• Melesse Temesgen (Ethiopia) - Aybar BBM

The Aybar BBM is a low-cost farming device that can be used by farmers to plough fields that are usually waterlogged and helps them easily drain the water. This turns soils or fields that were otherwise unavailable for farming into high yielding fields.

Sulaiman Bolarinde Famro (Nigeria) - Farmking Mobile Multi-crop Processor

The innovation uses centrifugal forces to process cassava, sweet potatoes, soy, she-nuts, grains and cereals. It helps to separate the tubers from liquid, particles and impurities/toxic elements. The extractor is designed to replace the present crude fermentation and pressing technology which is extremely slow and wasteful and offers limited output and profitability. The extractor reduces a process that normally takes 3 – 4 days into a 5 minute process offering higher quality product outputs.

Viness Pillay (South Africa) - WaferMatTM

WaferMatTM is a tasty paediatric formulation of ARV therapy in the form of a wafer that dissolves within 3 seconds of being placed in the mouth. The wafer makes the process of administering the drug to children easier and also makes absorption more efficient.
The AIF believes that the best solutions to the challenges Africans face on a daily basis can and will come from Africans themselves and innovation is the key. The IPA selection committee represents private equity investors, seed funders, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, innovation catalysts and development leaders who are looking for ideas that move Africa forward.
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Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "entrepreneurship, innovation, invention,..."
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Date: Friday, 11 Apr 2014 23:13
From CNN's Africa Startup series:
Eve Zalwango started Awaka, a furniture store in Kampala, Uganda that makes custom wood products from locally grown trees.
Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "design, entrepreneurship, furniture, wom..."
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Date: Friday, 11 Apr 2014 22:04
In Earth Architecture:
Nka Foundation invites entries for Mud House Design 2014, an international architecture competition open to recent graduates and students of architecture, design and others from around the world who think earth architecture can be beautiful. The challenge is to design a single-family unit of about 30 x 40 feet on a plot of 60 x 60 feet to be built by maximum use of earth and local labor in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.

This is the design problem: In Ghana, as in other countries in West Africa, stereotypes about buildings made of earth persist because of poor construction. From the cities to the low-income villages, use of concrete - despite its dependence on imported resources - is considered indispensable for building. Yet an excellent, cheap and local alternative called laterite, red earth, is available everywhere in Ghana. The long-term goal is to enable the Ghanaian population and lots of other places, to overcome the stigma that mud architecture is architecture for the very poor
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Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "architecture, construction, design, educ..."
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Date: Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 22:51
Over at Afri-Love:
Rooti Dolls create multicultural dolls that can teach children many words and phrases in various African ethnic languages, including Twi, Ga, Ewe, Krobo, Shona, Ndebele, Bemba, Nyanja, Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Afrikaans, Ijaw, Edo, Idoma, Tiv.

Creators, husband and wife team Chris and Ada Ngoforo, struggled to find decent black dolls that resonated with their daughters. Living in the UK, they also found it hard to get the girls to speak Igbo. And so, Rooti Dolls was born to address both these needs.
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Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "diaspora, entrepreneurship, fashion, sty..."
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Date: Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 22:34
CP Africa reports:
Photo/DIANA NGILA
CladLight, a Kenya-based wearable tech startup, has created the world’s first smart jacket for motorcycle riders, according to All Africa.

Brothers Joseph Muchene and Charles Muchene invented the Smart Jacket in a bid to reduce motorbike-related accidents. The jacket is equipped with signal transmitters that display the direction that the driver intends to turn to. The device also has a GPS tracker that helps owners determine the location of the vehicle, the report detailed...[continue reading]
Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "accessories, design, electronics, fashio..."
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Date: Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 22:12
An Indie Cities profile:
Vava Angwengi is a one-woman powerhouse behind VAVA Coffee. She embodies a new African Coffee Culture, fusing exemplary hand crafted quality with a new consciousness for ethically and environmentally sustainable commodities.

She was compelled to start an independent coffee business four years ago to make positive changes for coffee farmers, firstly in Kenya and the whole of East Africa, who have been exploited by big coffee companies in the past.

VAVA Coffee also provide employment and sustainable revenues to various self-help groups that make the packaging for the brand, including a group of rehabilitated street children in Kajiado district and women with HIV-AIDS in the local slums, who skillfully make the hand-made colorful bags the coffee is sold in.
Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "beverages, entrepreneurship, food, marke..."
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Date: Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 21:30
John Giwa-Amu is the co-founder of Red and Black Films producer of award-winning sci-fi film The Machine:
Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "creative industries, diaspora, film"
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Date: Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 14:13
Stanford's Scope magazine:
Over the past few weeks my colleague Kris Newby has been writing about the Foldscope, the 50-cent microscope developed by bioengineer Manu Prakash, PhD. Today Prakash is announcing another device that will bring high tech science to the developing worldand to kids.

The device won a contest from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Society for Science & the Public to “Reimagine the chemistry set for the 21st century.” In the contest materials, the two groups cite the absence of chemistry sets on the market today that inspire creativity.
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Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "diaspora, diy, diybio, education, hacker..."
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Date: Wednesday, 02 Apr 2014 20:46
Bunnie Huang's Novena Laptop Project goes live,Make reports:
The hardware/software team of bunnie Huang and Xobs are offering their highly hackable, portable Novena computers to backers on the Crowd Supply crowfunding platform. bunnie’s post about the project on MAKE generated a lot of buzz. Here’s how they describe it:
This is not a machine for the faint of heart. It’s an open source project, which means part of the joy – and frustration – of the device is that it is continuously improving. This will be perhaps the only laptop that ships with a screwdriver; you’ll be required to install the battery yourself, screw on the LCD bezel of your choice, and you’ll get the speakers as a kit, so you don’t have to use our speaker box design – if you have access to a 3D printer, you can make and fine tune your own speaker box
They’re offering three versions of the laptop: the “all-in-one desktop” for $1,195, a slightly more robust version for $1,995 and a $5,000 “heirloom” model done up in wood and aluminum by Kurt Mottweiler.
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Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "crowdfunding, emerging markets, engineer..."
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Date: Tuesday, 01 Apr 2014 14:46
An emerging group of agricultural entrepreneurs in Nigeria is unlocking the countries farming potential.An article in HBS highlights Babban Gona a franchise farmers model founded by Kola Masha.It also accentuates the work of AACE, Sahel Capital and Notore covered earlier:
Ibrahim Mustapha's farm tripled its annual harvest last year with help from Kola Masha's innovative franchise model photograph by Jason Andrew
Ibrahim Mustapha grows maize in Katsina Fulani, a village of mud-brick houses topped by rusted corrugated roofs in northern Nigeria.

Like millions of farmers in his country, Mustapha is a "smallholder"; he and his family grow their crop on a 1.1-hectare farm, a plot roughly the size of a rugby field. The 50-year-old has been farming this small-scale way all his life, and he's been taken advantage of just about as long.

The Nigerian government, long considered one of the most corrupt on the African continent, had controlled the nation's seed and fertilizer industries for decades. And even though Mustapha and his sons had earned a reputation as hard workers, there was only so much they could produce within a system that left farmers either chronically undersupplied or dealing with bags of fertilizer cut with sand to meet labeled weights. In a given year, Mustapha would be lucky to harvest 1.4 metric tons of maize—one-fifth the yield farmers in Brazil and China can expect. To match their production, he'd need to invest about $500 per hectare. But Mustapha earned only around $600 a year—and that was if the weather cooperated.

In 2012, the weather did not cooperate. That year was among the rainiest on record, flooding more than 2 million hectares in northern Nigeria. Yet that December, Mustapha harvested 4.6 metric tons of maize, about triple his annual average. After saving some for his family and selling the rest, he netted an unimaginable $1,350. "I have plenty of money in my pocket and healthy maize for my family to eat," Mustapha said then. "My children are already looking healthier—I can barely lift my eight-year-old. He's the fattest in the village."

On a continent more likely to evoke save-the-children appeals than thoughts of agricultural innovation, Ibrahim Mustapha is at the vanguard of what could be a green revolution. He belongs to a new farming program called Babban Gona, the brainchild of Kola Masha that is aggressively transforming Nigerian subsistence farmers into commercial growers. By harnessing the largely untapped power of smallholders—increasing their yields, rebuilding supply chains, and opening access to economies of scale—Masha believes he is on the way to helping more than a million Nigerian farmers climb out of poverty.
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Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "agriculture, entrepreneurship, finance, ..."
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Date: Monday, 31 Mar 2014 23:08
Farmbiz Africa profiles leading female agricultural entrepreneurs and figures in the industry:
Image of Dr. Mutegi courtesy of WFP
Kenya’s recognition of women farmers has been dismal even as studies show that 80 percent of all Kenyan farmers are women. A paltry one percent of the women farmers own land or have access to agricultural supported financing facilities.

Image of Margaret Wanjiru WWF-Canon / Simon Rawles
But even with these odds there are women from the farms to boardrooms who are making successful strides in policies, innovations and farms in a bid to make Kenya food secure and turn farming into business. Farmbizafrica brings you its own list of Kenyan women who are shaping the course of agriculture in the country.
They are:

Nancy Karanja- Sanla Farm

Sicily Kariuki Principal Secretary Ministry of Agriculture

Jane Karuku President Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)

Su Kahumbu

Elizabeth Nyaberi, Urban farmer

Jamila Abass and Susan Oguya- MFARM Founders

Dr. Charity Kawira Mutegi- Scientist

Margaret Wanjjiru- Vanguard farmer


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Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "agriculture, entrepreneurship, forestry,..."
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Date: Sunday, 30 Mar 2014 22:25
This is Africa in conversation with Issa Diabate, co-founder of Koffi & Diabate:
What role can African architects play in informal urban systems? I’m talking about informal economies, informal housing developments, that kind of thing.

The role of the architect in informal economies is key. When the environment is informal, it is the responsibility of the architect to organise, shape and provide structure.

The idea is to work with the environment, to look for potential solutions, and to recreate a sense of order within chaos.

It is also important to understand that all is not negative in informal settings. For example, they allow for flexibility, where more formal systems can be trapped by rigid structure. You also often find strong social ties in underprivileged urban environments, with people developing participatory approaches to organising their surroundings. This allows a sense of solidarity to develop.

These positive elements need to be maintained while moving towards more formal systems.

You’re interested in marketplaces. What particular challenges and opportunities do they present for planners? What can we learn from them?

Marketplaces are where we, as Africans, digest modernity and give it back to the world in new forms Marketplaces have always been the ultimate expression of African modernity for me. They represent urbanity in its many shapes and forms, and offer insights into what is happening across the continent. Markets are also spaces where we, as Africans, digest modernity and give it back in new forms.

When I was teaching architecture I would take my students to one of the biggest markets in Abidjan and tell them to just observe what was happening. The next exercise would be to share their insights with the rest of the class. It was always amazing to see that each of us had focused on details that others had overlooked, collectively exposing a rich palette of behaviours, problems and solutions.

For example, we noticed that basic products like food remained in the centre of the market, while accessories like clothes were positioned near the edges, tempting shoppers into buying unnecessary items before reaching their destination.

There are countless lessons to be learned just by observing how things are structured.
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Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "architecture, construction, creativity, ..."
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Date: Sunday, 30 Mar 2014 20:03
Hugo de Boer and Anneleen Kool reporting in International Barcode for life:
In marketplaces around the world, from Buenos Aires, to Benin, to Baghdad, people trade medicinal plant products. These herbal medicines are often culturally important and their use dates back many generations. Local demand for herbals has grown with increasing urbanization and welfare, and plant species that were available in the past may now have become scarce due to over-harvesting or degradation of natural habitats. As species become rare, people may also opt to substitute similar alternatives for the original species, but incentives for adulteration emerge as well.Understanding what species are traded today can help us to monitor trade in threatened and endangered species and to detect potentially harmful adulteration with toxic species. Plant products such as bark, roots and powders are hard to identify, and DNA barcoding has helped us to shed light on this trade.

Marrakech is a crossroads of biological and cultural diversity, situated at the foot of the High Atlas range. The medina of Marrakech has a bustling market full of herbalist shops with jars of roots and piles of fragrant spices, wholesalers with burlap sacks from across Northern Africa and ambulatory traders with freshly picked spices and produce from the mountains. The Arabs and Amazigh have been trading plants here for ages and collectors, middlemen, retailers and consumers have abundant knowledge of herbal remedies, spices and talismans.

Extensive research by the Global Diversity Foundation (GDF) has found that over 300 species of plants and 80 species of animals are currently commercialized in southern Morocco. Identification of roots and barks has relied on matching of vernacular names to traditional pharmacopoeias and in many cases species identity has been far from certain. In collaboration with GDF, we used DNA barcoding to investigate which medicinal roots are really commercialized. A regional reference database was created of putative species and their sister taxa and sequence data from both plastid (matK, psbA-trnH, and rpoC1) and nuclear (nrITS) markers. The reference database and query sequences were submitted to Barcode of Life Datasystems (BOLD), and BLAST was used to match query sequences from roots purchased in the medina. Out of 83 samples, 56% were identified to species level and another 36% to genus level. In 18% of the cases, identification differed from hypotheses based on vernacular names. In a follow-up study into four complexes of medicinal root products with high morphological variety, 47 roots were sampled and yielded 91% species level identifications. Here each complex comprised more than one species, but none of the ones previously asserted based on previous literature.

Our study shows that the majority of the traded roots belong to species that are common and not known to be endangered. Nevertheless, endemic plant species are commercialized in Marrakech and species adulteration is common. A significant conclusion from our studies is that DNA barcoding is a powerful tool for identification of unknown samples as long as comprehensive reference data are available. It also underlines the importance of DNA barcoding for monitoring of trade in endangered plant species, as identifications based on folk taxonomy can vary widely in accuracy.
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Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "forestry, health, horticulture, innovati..."
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Date: Sunday, 30 Mar 2014 19:46
Over at VC4Africa:
...VC4Africa partner AUC Venture Lab! Egypt’s first university based incubator, launched last July at the American University in Cairo (AUC), will soon announce the entrepreneurs from their first batch who will continue incubation, and also the group of entrepreneurs selected in their second cycle. We had a chance to catch up with AUC Venture Lab’s lab manager, Sherif Shabana.

What is AUC Venture Lab?

“The AUC Venture Lab is a university wide business incubator in Cairo that was launched last July. We aim to translate technologies and innovations developed by Egypt-based startups into commercially viable ventures. The incubator is managed by the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program of AUC University’s School of Business. AUC Venture Lab offers workspace, business trainings, networking events, mentorship, and access to faculty members, students and facilities of the American University in Cairo.”
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Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "education, entrepreneurship, hackerspace..."
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Date: Saturday, 29 Mar 2014 09:44
At the Daily Nation Kingwa Kamencu covers the work of Dominic Wanjihia who we have covered extensively:
“I’ve always been considered a tinkerer. Things would be kept away from me because I would tear them apart. My sister will never forgive me for borrowing her new cassette player half an hour after she got it as a birthday present when we were younger. After I was done with it, she never heard it play.”

A lot of the gadgets Wanjihia has developed since his School years at St Mary’s School in Nairobi, have revolved around energy and farming, but it is in the world of biogas that he has cut a niche.

His recent innovation — the flexi-biogas system, a portable tube that processes cow dung and other waste, has come to the attention of outside governments and local manufacturers, some of whom have ordered units in the hundreds for pilot projects.

“The Rwandese government ordered one hundred units from us to distribute to low-income farmers and in schools.”

Wanjihia takes pride in the affordability of his innovation to local folk, as well as its ability to produce more than conventional systems.

“In East Africa, a conventional small system costs about Sh200,000 but it won’t produce enough gas to cook githeri for three hours, and poorer people still can’t afford it. Ours comes in three sizes cost Sh40,000 for the small, Sh55,000 for the medium and Sh70,000 for the large and is enough to cook for hours and do other things.”

Another departure from convention: Wanjihia’s flexi-biogas system needs only one cow on hand to operate and apart from cow dung, it can run on kitchen, chicken, pig, elephant, human and other animal wastes.

“The regular dome systems need four to five cows to produce 1,000 litres of gas. They are constructed underground and you need to own the land. How many people have Sh200,000 to spare, own a piece of land and four to five cows?”

While other systems take up to a week to install, Wanjihia’s system is up in a few hours and running in days. To generate biogas, farmers put dung and water into the portable PVC digester, which eventually produces a constant supply of energy as long as it is fed daily.
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Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "biogas, energy, entrepreneurship, income..."
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Date: Thursday, 27 Mar 2014 06:00
Founder of Raintree Farms ,TMS Ruge on the satisfaction of being an entrepreneur:
Image courtesy of TMS Ruge
Employing eight people isn’t something you would find in a massive program’s highlight reel, but it is something you will find in my personal highlight reel. This is what change looks like when you invest your remittances to help your community, not just your family; this is what progress looks like at the grass roots; this is what opportunity looks like at the last mile.

I’d like to think that this is the beginning of something much, much bigger. I can only be encouraged to work even harder as a force multiplier. We have a long way to go to bring significant development to this community. These pictures, of six ladies working on packaging products for international export, are my inspiration and a reminder that every little effort matters. Changing Africa is not going to happen in one massive catalytic event, it’ll only happen through the collective efforts in our respective corners of our continent. This is my small but significant contribution to that effort.
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Author: "Emeka Okafor (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "agriculture, diaspora, entrepreneurship,..."
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