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  • Writer's pictureCecilia Wandiga

Kenya Sustainable Cities - Academic Research as a Driver of New Industrial Products

In developing countries, foreign aid tends to promote the use of academic research for agricultural development and basic healthcare. 

However, if we use the philosophy of preventive health care, agricultural research in developing countries should also include academic research on biofuels. Biofuels are extracted from natural plant materials which makes biofuels an ecosystem service. When properly strategized, biofuels development provides an economic incentive to increase the diversity and availability of both plant and beneficial microbial ecosystems while simultaneously reducing pollution and toxic chemicals that adversely impact basic health. 

Toward an Ecological View of Health: An Imperative for the Twenty-First Century (2006)

... Alone or in various combinations, dietary inadequacies or excesses (e.g., micronutrient deficiency, excessive fat or carbohydrate intake, etc.); exposure to toxic chemicals and pollutants in air, water, or food; inadequate exercise; exposure to infectious agents; and social and economic deprivation contribute to these trends. People with these environmentally related disorders live, work, play, and go to school in our communities.... 

... Healthcare food-procurement practices support an industrial agricultural system heavily reliant on fossil fuels in food production and transport and petrochemical pesticide use. These practices directly contribute to air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, top-soil loss, eutrophication of surface waters, and adversely impact the social and economic fabric of rural communities (Tegtmeier and Duffy 2004). Moreover, this dominant agricultural system from which most healthcare systems obtain their food makes readily available a diet rich in calories but relatively poor in some nutrients, contributing to obesity, diabetes, and other adverse health outcomes treated in those same healthcare facilities (Nestle 2006; Davis, Epp, and Riordan 2004).... 


Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES)

The ecosystem approach to health is a promising strategy in international development: lessons from Japan and Laos (2015)

See ECOSYSTEM SERVICES AND HUMAN HEALTH in the following library

Lignocellulosic biorefinery is increasingly becoming cost effective when examined from a total lifecycle analysis perspective. 

Increasing the economic value of lignocellulosic stillage through medium-chain fatty acid production (2018)

Cellulose is not only the most abundant material on earth, cellulose can be regenerated through plant growth which makes it a renewable feedstock. Furthermore, we can extract microbial enzymes instead of trying to develop synthetic enzymes for cellulosic breakdown. The research to identify of suitable plants and enzymes is what we call bioprospecting. 

The following TedEd video summarizes the technical processes of lignocellulosic biorefinery.   

Watch "Biofuels and bioprospecting for beginners - Craig A. Kohn" on YouTube

Academic research can serve as a driver for bioindustrial development when faculty are allowed to convert their knowledge into new products that can be licensed by industry. 

The above example from University of Maryland highlights how an ocean bacteria that was causing extensive damage (Saccharophagus degradans 2-40) can be effectively harnessed for enzymatic extraction and lignocellulosic biorefinery. The result is a double benefit: reduction of marshland decay and the development of biofuels. 

Watch "Science of Innovation -- Biofuels" on YouTube

The effective development of green and blue infrastructure, particularly in urban environments and low income communities requires the development of new knowledge realms. The creation of new knowledge realms that drive industry is a task particularly suited for academics.

Despite the lack of funding support, Kenyan academics and entrepreneurs have begun examining the energy-health nexus. 

Croton trees (Croton megalocarpus) provide both biofuels and edible nuts. If monoculture practices are avoided, croton trees could become one of many renewable biofuel feedstocks in Kenya.

Research has already begun on the engine compatibility of Croton biodiesel. 

Experimental Investigation on Performance, Emission and Combustion Characteristics of Croton Megalocarpus Biodiesel Blends In a Direct Injection Diesel Engine (2015)

The National Biosafety Authority is the entity that provides local guidance on biodiversity requirements

Kenya has also begun to explore the use of Community Benefit Sharing agreements on the development of microbial enzymes

Ultimately, our collective goal is to ensure that local academic efforts, community efforts and industry efforts are as symbiotic and beneficial as natural ecosystem services. Bangladesh provides an example on integrated mainstreaming. 

Mainstreaming Ecosystem Services Based Climate Change Adaptation (EbA) in Bangladesh: Status, Challenges and Opportunities (2017)

Surely this pursuit is worthy of investment and development funding. 

CSTI is a Kenya registered Trust and a project under the Kenya National Academy of Sciences. This dual role enables us to direct funding streams towards the integration of academic, community and industrial efforts in environmentally sustainable advanced biotechnology formation. 

We are always happy to hear from social impact investors in the inclusive bio-economy space. 

Give us a call or send us a note:

+254 735 200 458 

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