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watershed mitigation and restoration

returning the hydrological character of endangered catchment basins by employing a more sustainable biofuel tree (croton megalocarpus)

Photo of Alex Wachira
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How does your idea apply new technologies to make agriculture and water systems more resilient in the face of climate threats?

The idea leans on the production of clean, renewable biodiesel fuels that currently operates low revving diesel engines. Current research as per now has shown that a fossil fuel diesel truck can be run by the croton nut biodiesel with some modification. This pioneering concept originated from Eco Fuel Company, Kenya, which currently runs the production plant and main research center. My proposition is the application of croton plant in the protection of sub-Saharan ecosystems.

The Croton Megalocarpus tree is a wild growing tree, indigenous to Kenya and has a spreading upper-story flattish crown and horizontal layers of branches. The tree grows up to a height of 35m or more and can be grown from an altitude of 900m – 2100m.

These trees are found in dry upland areas, evergreen or semi-deciduous forests, moist upland forests, dense woodland and scattered tree grasslands. The plant has been found to yield  0.35 litres of oil per kilo of nuts. Moreso, their umbrella-like canopy is an effective windbreaker and the deep penetrating roots can offer a good soil retaining material as well promote infiltrations for the geographical areas covered.

Company`s Description

EFK Group produces energy and agriculture products for industrial customers through a no-waste manufacturing process based entirely on the Croton nut, which grows indigenously across 8 African countries and has no other commercial, productive or edible use. The Company sources the Croton nut from local forest through rural BoP (Base of the Pyramid) who are paid per KG of harvest through a proprietary collection network. The flagship product, Croton Nut Oil, is consumed by local SMEs who use it as a biofuel to run off-grid generators due to a lack of reliable grid energy. Organic fertilizer, made from the waste of the oil pressing, is sold to corporate farms to restore soils depleted from today’s chemical-based intensive agriculture. During a two year proof of concept, EFK has sold over 25,000 liters of biofuel and 150 tons of organic fertilizer to 30 corporate customers, earning over US $100,000 in revenue while creating meaningful income for 2,000 of Kenya’s poorest people. Moving into 2015, the Company will begin to expand its capacity, secure distribution contracts with agri-product distributors and add two additional products to the mix: a solid fuel in the form of a briquette, used for industrial furnaces and boilers, and a poultry feed, capitalizing on the well-researched opportunity to turn the seed of the Croton into a commercial poultry feed.

Target Market

Industrial operators of East Africa:
1) Biofuel - SMEs that run diesel generators because they are off-grid or require reliable, 24-7 energy production
2) Organic Fertilizer - Corporate farms that export production to Europe (30 acquired) & Agri-product distributors (negotiation stage with 3)
3) Briquettes - Industrial producers or cement, bricks, and other products that require furnaces or boilers burning large volumes of solid organic matter to generate heat
4) Poultry Feed - Direct to feed producers (to be used as a 10%-25% input) or to large poultry farmers as a protein supplement

Created Impact

1) Environment - Putting value on plentifully available, indigenous, otherwise wasted resource to discourage deforestation and increase conservation
2) Rural BoP - Earn a strong seasonal income from the simple activity of harvesting Croton nuts that have fallen to the ground. Top earning collectors during a 2013 POC earned the equivalent of one full month's worth of income in less than one week's time.
3) Renewable Energy and Organic Agriculture inputs for Industrial East Africa - Replacing expensive, imported, chemical-based products with low-cost, locally-produced, 100% organic products through a simple no-waste manufacturing process. Products perform equal or better than the ones they replace and reduce the carbon footprint within the supply chain.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

The most practical experiment, in this case, would be through the purchasing of mature croton seeds, posing as the company`s agent. A good income earning can then convince the locals that the tree is more profitable for biofuel production, rather than charcoal production, as is the current fate of the tree. Moreso, the resident will get the urge to plant more trees in unused tracts of land. The aim is to achieve an effective tree cover and keep it that way for times to come. The rest, we leav

We are excited to learn about ideas at diverse stages of development. At what stage would you currently classify your idea as? (multiple choice)

  • Research & Early Testing: I am exploring my idea, gathering the inspiration and information I need to test it with real users.

How do you plan to grow or scale this idea?

By lobbying for acceptance and funding from able and interested persons and/or groups. The research needs to go on, and processing plants need to be set up. Public awareness campaigns also require funds and other forms of support.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

The design of a biodiesel extracting plant, as well as training and research on oil extraction from nuts. If it were possible, I wish that this community would also lobby for this project at the highest level, to our Kenyan government; for massive adaptation and implementation.

This idea emerged from:

Genuine concern for the dignity and welfare of the African man, a pioneering concept from Eco Fuel Company, and my educational background.

Tell us about your work experience:

I am a fresh undergraduate, expecting to graduate April this year. Currently working as an online freelance tutor.

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Nicole Sorci

Hi Alex,

What a great idea! Please keep us informed for how we can help lobby for this project as it develops.