Today at the 71st World Health Assembly, AstraZeneca will announce a new sustainability project in partnership with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL). The pilot will see the introduction of portable biodigesters to Dunga Beach on Lake Victoria in Kenya, which will allow the local community to process organic waste into valuable clean energy. It will study the impact on the environment and local economy, and provide potential insight into the effect of clean cooking on respiratory health.
The innovative project will use local technology supplied by Kenyan firm, Biogas International Ltd, and will see the launch of 50 domestic-scale flexi-biogas plants and two community scale plants in October 2018 in Dunga Beach.
The process involves feeding waste materials together with water hyacinth – a local weed known to clog the lake at Dunga Beach – into digesters that generate cooking gas and fertiliser that is cleaner and greener than current alternatives.
Each digester will provide enough energy to meet the needs of a typical home for a day, while the larger community systems will provide cooking services and charging for local fishermen, fish processors and market stalls. The biogas itself can be used for a variety of purposes from fuelling cooking equipment to incubating chicks and purifying water.
The project aims to improve respiratory health in the community by reducing exposure to smoke from cooking over wood-burning fires. It will also reduce the time taken by villagers, particularly women and children, to collect firewood for cooking, allowing them to invest it in, for example, schooling or income-generating activities.
Additionally, the move from firewood to gas is expected to have an impact on the local environment, supporting the Kenyan Government’s target to increase the country’s tree cover from the current 6.2 per cent to 10 per cent.
AstraZeneca is working to continue connecting its industry-leading environmental work to improving patient health. An opportunity identified through AstraZeneca’s well-established Healthy Heart Africa programme, this pilot will explore how technology can deliver health benefits in tandem with multiple social, economic and environment gains.
“This initiative is another example of a strategic collaboration between AstraZeneca, with global headquarters in Cambridge, and the University of Cambridge”, commented Katarina Ageborg, EVP Sustainability and Chief Compliance Officer at AstraZeneca. “The project embodies our sustainability agenda and is unique in the way it allows us to leverage our strengths in access, science and innovation to provide a package that will ultimately benefit a local community. We look forward to working closely with our partners and the local community at Dunga Beach over the coming months to get the pilot programme up and running in the autumn.”
Dr Jake Reynolds, Executive Director at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership added, “The pilot explores how a simple sustainability technology – locally generated biogas – can improve health and economic outcomes in a rural location in Kenya. The arrival of a clean, green cooking fuel, produced from organic materials on the doorstep, will eliminate both the toxic smoke arising from wood-fired kitchens and the daily burden of firewood collection which falls largely on women. Cambridge and AstraZeneca share an interest in the science and practice of preventative health, and by partnering we hope to create unique – and sharable – insights into positive development solutions in sub-Saharan Africa.”