Where Are Kenyan Forests Disappearing?
Kenya, once full of rich indigenous forests, have lost 9.3% of tree coverage since 2010. The main activity killing the Kenyan forests is charcoal burning.
Utilizing charcoal, as a main local source of fuel, largely contributed to Kenya’s environmental change. Massive deforestation turned the once prosperous forests of Kenya to open stretches of dry land.
After trees are burned for charcoal, the land is left vulnerable to winds and droughts as all the water seeps into the underground wells. Consequently, the land is drained away from nutritions and puts many animals on the endangered species list.
A high portion of demand for fuel comes from Kenyan schools, which use the charcoal and firewood for the cooking lunches. In fact, the biggest part of school budget goes to fuel.
However, during rain seasons, the wood becomes wet and produces large smoke in the canteen and classrooms. Indoor air pollution causes severe respiratory diseases and leads to premature deaths in many African regions.
How Sugarcane Waste Saves Trees
Acacia Innovations is a for-profit social enterprise that manufactures smokeless briquettes made of sugarcane waste. They distribute their clean cooking solutions to schools, hotels, hospitals and restaurants.
Their product, called Kuni Safi, which means “clean firewood” in Swahili, is said to reduce fuel consumption by 50% and thereby saving lots of money in schools. Made of sugarcane waste, the fuel is a green and almost smokeless alternative to firewood or charcoal.
Additionally, Kuni Safi is believed to be a solution to stopping deforestation in Kenya. Each ton of this fuel saves on average 25 trees.
Who Is the Founder?
The Founder and CEO of Acacia Innovations, Elana Laichena, is an entrepreneur with expansive experience in the renewable energy sector in Kenya and the US. She is passionate about designing solutions to fight climate change and poverty.
“We have benefited 75.000 students in over 150 schools with a smoke-free learning experience and lower costs for school meals.”
In addition, Elana Laichena is also a Board Member of Fruitful Rescue Centre and Kibera Hamlets USA, community-based organizations serving orphans and children in need in Kibera slum.
The Winner of StartUp Energy Transition 2018
In April 2018, German Energy Agency (dena) initiated the Start Up Energy Transition Award. Acacia Innovations was awarded a Special Prize for sustainable development, chosen from over 400 applicants.
The Company Vision
“Acacia Innovations aims to make modern clean cooking affordable for schools in Kenya.” explained Elana. In addition to sugarcane briquettes, Acacia Innovations offers Kuni Safi Jiko, a modern eco-friendly cookstove designed for use with Kuni Safi.
Kenyan schools can purchase the lightweight cookstoves for a discounted price, upon signing a contract to purchase Kuni Safi biomass briquettes. The company further plans to expand to serving households across Africa by using their school customers as distribution points.