UWE Bristol and HP partner to bring clean energy to Kenyan orphanage

Issue date: 27 July 2012


SIFE UWE's Empower Kenya team

UWE Bristol in partnership with HP, has unveiled a new biodigester* at Baraka Children's Home, an orphanage in Nguu Tatu village just north of Mombasa, Kenya. This is the first step in a wider initiative to improve the quality of life for Kenya's children: the Empower Kenya project.

For the orphanage, like many in the region electricity is expensive, and it is illegal to cut down trees without a permit. This means that the children of Baraka Children's Home have to cook their food using costly “eco” firewood or charcoal which creates smoke and ash that is hazardous to health. The new biodigester, designed at UWE and built on site by students working with the local villagers, is clean and self-sufficient. It runs on vegetable waste and rainwater and emits clean gas. It also produces a compost which can then be used in the surrounding fields.

The UWE project team has also developed educational software as a training resource for partner school students in Bristol and Kenya as well as the orphans in Kenya. This software game will transfer knowledge in:

• How to build a biodigester

• How to maintain the biodigester

• Raising awareness of renewable energy and sustainable development.

The Empower Kenya Project was the idea of UWE's award winning students in the Students in Free Enterprise Team (SIFE). They were looking to build on Bristol's growing links with Kenya including capitalising on the Kenyan Olympic Team training in Bristol for their preparations for the London Olympic Games. They saw parts of Kenya suffering fuel poverty and decided to solve energy problems, improve the quality of life and empower the local population. As a result the team built a bio digester prototype in the UK with the help of UWE staff.

The work at the Nguu Tatu site is the first part of a programme which initially aims to build four biodigesters with accompanying software teaching resources on selected sites across Kenya. Through fundraising with partner sponsorship, the ultimate goal of the project is to empower communities to be self-sufficient. In the process, the initiative will strengthen the existing partnership between Kenyan children and those in Bristol through the twinning of 20 Kenyan and 20 Bristol schools and seeks to provide a bridge for Kenyan businesses to enter the UK market.

John Rushforth, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at UWE said, “This is a terrific example of one of many student projects enabled by the effective partnerships the University has with employers. The partnership with HP is an exemplar in this respect, because of its scope and its ambition. Through such partnerships the University supports a large range of enterprise opportunities for its students because it believes it is important to their personal development and it's a way they can make a real difference to society. We are very proud of our students who have had the initiative, enthusiasm and energy to deliver this social enterprise.”

“Development of students' enterprise skills and entrepreneurial behaviour makes a real positive difference to employability potential as new graduates enter the workplace.” says Nick Wilson, Managing Director and Vice President of HP Enterprise Group UK&I. “The Empower Kenya Project is a great example of an exciting initiative which develops these skills in students whilst at the same time improves the quality of life for people in need. We are very proud to support this project and have been inspired by the dedication and commitment of the UWE students.”

*The biodigester is designed to run on waste left over from the harvesting and cooking of vegetables. It also uses rain water collected from the roof of the orphanage with a special rainwater harvesting system. Naturally occurring enzymes and bacteria break-down the food waste to produce natural biogas that is perfect for cooking; plus a rich compost that will improve the yield of vegetables grown in the village. As such it constitutes an essentially self-sustaining supply of clean energy.

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