KOKO Networks' Launch in Kenya

The KOKO Networks’ launch in Kenya will provide multi-purpose consumer access machines to areas in need. KOKO believes that this technology will allow consumers safe access to clean fuel. Additionally, it will offer them a connection to e-commerce and video content all within a short distance from their homes. KOKO Fuel has partnered with Vivo Energy Kenya, the local Shell-branded fuel owner and distributor, in order to decrease time and money in supplying fuel.

KOKO is a tech company that distributes its innovations throughout East Africa and India. Consumers can get “KOKOpoints” to be used at local stores for goods and services offered by KOKO. In Kenya, KOKO will provide services such as a fuel ATM, an e-commerce kiosk and an in-store digital media experience.


This innovation offers safe and affordable bioethanol cooking fuel. Not only does the fuel benefit the environment but it also gives isolated communities a more reliable food-cooking source. The cooking fuel market in Africa is worth over $20 billion. However, it is still dominated by dirty and unsafe fuels like charcoal and kerosene. KOKO’s new technology could allow the bioethanol fuel industry to grow rapidly. Furthermore, it can compete with the more prominent dirty fuels.

The government in Kenya has already set a goal of 100% clean cooking fuel in Kenyan households because of both massive deforestation and indoor air pollution caused by other fuels. Deforestation in Kenya causes changes in rainfall and harmfully impacts the agriculture industry, one of the most important industries in the country. Additionally, indoor air pollution is responsible for more than 21,000 deaths a year with most victims under the age of five. With KOKO Networks’ launch in Kenya, these negative consequences can be significantly reduced.

Improving Living Conditions in Kenya

Greg Murray, KOKO CEO and co-founder, has previously commented that Kenyans are notable for embracing technological innovations and advancements that can greatly improve their living conditions. Those who decide to use the KOKO networks fuel will use KOKOpoints to fill their smart canisters at the KOKO machines.

After they fill the canisters, the fuel can be used at home with the KOKO cooker. The cooker is an affordable, high-power ethanol stove with two burners that produce less pollution. A partnership with an astounding 700 shops is assisting in KOKO Networks’ launch in Kenya in order to serve a wide range of people.

Impact in Kenya

If bioethanol fuel can replace charcoal, the forests and rain supply that support agricultural productivity can be restored and protected. Additionally, the production of the fuel takes place in Kenya through the sugar industry. As a result, local production would contribute to employment and economic growth.

Overall, KOKO Network’s launch in Kenya hopes to have a huge impact on both Kenya’s economy and environment. If the project is successful here, it is likely they will expand the infrastructure into other areas. This technology could also help Kenya in reaching the Paris 2030 carbon emissions reductions target by more than 10 percent with minimal government investment and risk.

– Jessica Haidet
Photo: Flickr

Cookstoves in KenyaIn Kenya, only 20 percent of the nation’s 47 million inhabitants have access to electricity. In rural areas, that number is even more drastic – only seven percent of the rural population has access to electricity. Consequently, the majority of the nation’s inhabitants, especially those in rural areas, are dependent upon biofuels, such as coal and charcoal, to power their lives.

These biofuels are often used in immense quantities for a very specific task – cooking – as 84 percent of the population relies on wood or charcoal cookstoves. These stoves require such immense quantities of fuel that, in fact, a Kenyan household can often expect to spend about $500 per year on charcoal alone; this is an entirely unsustainable expense that can lead to bankruptcy for impoverished families.

This immense reliance on biofuels has also contributed to the massive deforestation the nation has faced. Only two to three percent of the land remains forested today, leaving the environment susceptible to irregular rain patterns and soil degradation, both issues that undermine agricultural abilities and thus undermine the economy. Further, the reliance on biofuel cookstoves in Kenya costs the nation at least 5,000 children a year, as the children catch respiratory infections caused by smoke from the stoves.

All of this is exactly why the clean cookstove revolution has entered Kenya. Organizations like the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves have catalyzed the efforts to diversify cooking options in order to combat the effects of traditional, expensive, and ultimately dangerous biofuel cookstoves.

Further, the first-ever clean cookstove manufacturing facility in Sub-Saharan Africa has settled in Kenya. This facility, run by BURN – a clean and affordable cookstove company – employs over 100 Kenyans in the effort to invigorate the economy with localized production and employment.

Though BURN’s cookstoves still use biofuels, they are incredibly efficient, cutting fuel consumption by over 56 percent, which ultimately saves Kenyans up to $250 a year. They also reduce carbon emissions by 65 percent, which not only helps to improve air quality on the whole, but also minimizes the respiratory risks associated with biofuels.

Thankfully, it is clear that although the clean cookstove revolution is relatively young, it is on its way to changing cookstoves in Kenya for the better. BURN is only a single company, and yet it is projected that in the next 10 years it will have generated 3.7 million clean biofuel cookstoves. This essentially means that at least 3.7 million households will be able to improve their finances, environment and health. And they are only a single company; imagine the impact that all similar companies will have in conjunction. Thus, there is a very bright light gleaming ahead for Kenyan cookstoves, and it is a clean light at that.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Flickr

jet fuel
On August 6, Boeing, South African Airways (SAA) and SkyNRG announced a collaborative effort to work with rural farmers in South Africa to produce biofuel for jets from tobacco plantations. The initiative is part of a greater ambition to cut costs on fuel production while looking to more sustainable alternatives for sources of fuel.

Boeing and the other airline companies will use oil from a specific strain of tobacco plant called Solaris. The strain has no nicotine and instead contains large amounts of oil in its many seeds. The oil will be added to existing forms of jet fuel to act as a supplementary fuel source in the near future, and a potential substitute long term.

The initiative looked at South African farms for economical reasons. Rural farms in South Africa are an excellent source of tobacco already in production, and the locally grown plant will help minimize transportation costs and the impact of carbon emissions. According to the airline companies’ estimates, biofuel can reduce carbon emissions by as much as 80 percent when compared to conventional fuel production and use.

Rather than establishing new farms or crop sources, the use of existing supply chains in South Africa will help current rural farmers maintain employment as the government seeks to reduce smoking in the country. “By using hybrid tobacco, we can leverage knowledge of tobacco growers in South Africa to grow a marketable biofuel crop without encouraging smoking,” said Ian Cruickshank, SAA Group Environmental Affairs Specialist, in a company news release.

If the new initiative proves replicable, the companies may increase production of the special tobacco plant elsewhere in China, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa—all regions that have sizable populations of rural farmers. Roughly 80 percent of rural households engage in some form of farm activity, and wages and employment for rural farmers remain low.

Increased biofuel production driven by the initiative could in future years provide employment opportunities for rural populations. Increased employment could in turn increase the earning power of rural farmers and reduce the number of individuals living in extreme poverty.

Poverty reduction from the tobacco venture; however, is a best-case scenario. According to company estimates, production of the biofuel will not be fully operational until 2017, and many rural farmers live in poor regulatory environments. Governments often fail to provide social protections for rural farmers, and there is no guarantee by the companies that local producers will be paid fairly.

The initiative will take several years to reach fruition, so while poverty reduction from the venture is certainly possible, it remains a long and uncertain path.

Joseph McAdams

Sources: Wired, Reuters, LA Times, Boeing, IFAD
Photo: Wired

6 Ways to Bring an End to World Hunger
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates nearly 870 million people are suffering from chronic malnourishment despite the world producing more than enough food to feed everyone. Nearly all of these people, 852 million, live in developing countries. What can be done to solve world hunger?

1. Prevent Land Grabbing: The ugly truth of the future food supply scarcity issue is that wealthy, land-poor countries, including those in the Gulf and South Korea, are obtaining tracts of land in developing countries to use as allotments. Many African countries, including Ethiopia, Sudan, and Madagascar, have already been targeted. A reported estimate totaling an area the size of Spain has been taken from these countries leaving many families unable to feed their children. The push to end land grabbing is the main campaigning focus of the Enough Food For Everyone IF campaign.

2. Reform and Regulate: Large amounts of investment funds have flooded into the commodities markets since the 2008 financial crisis. The automated trading systems, which exploit the tiniest of flaws in the market, encourage volatility. This makes it extremely difficult for traditional traders to keep prices stable and capable of hedging against spikes in the market. Though this was a topic much discussed in the G20 and G8, an international agreement to reform and regulate the commodities markets has not yet been reached.

3. Produce Less Biofuel: With the pressure to reduce carbon emission from fossil fuels, wealthy countries have been turning sugar, corn, and other crops into ethanol and biodiesel. Burning large amounts of food in our cars reduces the amount available to eat and results in much higher food prices. If that does not sound catastrophic enough, evidence shows that many biofuels actually release more greenhouse gasses than fossil fuels. More greenhouse gasses means hotter, drier seasons, dying crops, and even more hungry people.

4. Support Small Farms: Many African farmers are less productive today than US farmers were 100 years ago. There is an agreement between NGOs and governments that supporting small farmers is the smartest solution for future food security. With a combination of aid, education in better farming methods, and the introduction of better seeds and fertilizer, a green revolution could soon be within Africa’s reach.

5. Target Infant Nutrition: Many companies and wealthy nations are backing an African government-led plan to eliminate malnutrition, and large improvements have already been made. The solution is education on good feeding techniques and getting the proper nutrients to the mother and child at the beginning of pregnancy. This aid is key because malnutrition is responsible for an 11% decrease in GDP in affected areas.

6. Reduce Poverty: No surprise here; economic growth is the key to reducing hunger. More trade, financial liberalization, and open markets will aid in the flow of food. Successful poverty-reducing methods in China have led many economists to believe that hunger in the country will be eradicated by 2020. As for the rest of the world, the UN’s Millennium Development Goals aim to end extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. If each UN-member state does its part, these goals can be achieved.

– Scarlet Shelton

Sources: The Guardian, World Hunger