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JKUAT graduate turns water hyacinth into household cooking biofuel

biogas fuel

Eric Gathirwa Kariuki, an Alumni of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology has come up with a biofuel innovation that utilizes water hyacinth into a bioethanol product that can be used for cooking in households.

This comes at a time there has been an upward trend in fuel prices in Kenya and it is believed that the innovation will bring relief to many households especially which are in places where the raw material is found.

Kariuki who graduated in 2018, with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Biotechnology, at the university, developed an interest in renewable energy and biofuels while on a visit to the Lake Victoria region, sometime back.

“I came face to face with the effect of the water hyacinth on the local environment in Lake Victoria region and I asked myself what I could do to turn the water hyacinth menace into something useful,” said Kariuki.

“I designed the cooking fuel innovation from water hyacinth weed as an undergraduate project. The results were good. After consulting my supervisors, I decided to pursue the patent process through the JKUAT Directorate of Intellectual Property Management and University Liason (DIPUIL).”

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The Sustainable Blue Economy conference held in Nairobi, 2018 provided an opportunity for Erick to participate and showcase his innovation idea to potential investors in the marine and water related areas.

“I was encouraged to participate and thereafter, I applied for Climate Change Launchpad competition, facilitated by the Kenya Climate Innovation Centre at Strathmore University,” said Kariuki

He participated in the three series of the competition and made it to the national finals where he emerged position three in Kenya.

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Inspired by problems, Karuiki says that he endeavors to do what he can to bring change from inspiration from his role models who are also his mentors.

“It is okay to think differently. Most graduates in Biochemistry dream to go to Kemri, or to be Medical reps. Being odd is what helps you to shape your past. Think differently,” he said.

Kariuki’s future aspiration is to serve people or societies in the area of renewable industry in whatever capacity by providing solutions to challenges and problems affecting mankind.

Caption: Biogas from water hyacinth in Dunga, Kisumu. Photograph: Kirill Nikitin/Alamy

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