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Varsity students saving trees with winning energy project

Saturday July 7 2018

Moringa tree nursery

Ms Merrilyn Chizanga (left) with students of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology students at the moringa tree nursery. After emerging top in the Entrepreneurial Action for Us All (Enactus) in Kenya, the students will now proceed to represent Kenya in the US in October. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

VICTOR RABALLA
By VICTOR RABALLA
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From humble beginnings assisting locals overcome energy challenges, 25 Kenyan university students now have an opportunity to showcase their effort on the international stage.

After emerging top in the Entrepreneurial Action for Us All (Enactus) in Kenya, the students from Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology (JOOUST) will now proceed to represent Kenya in the US in October.

Their winning project focused on forest and land rehabilitation as well as provision of renewable sources of energy to limit reliance on wood fuel and burning of charcoal.

Situated in an area where wood fuel is the largest form of energy consumed, JOOUST Enactus Founder Merrilyn Chizanga said they felt it necessary to intervene.

"Siaya County has the lowest forest cover with 0.42 per cent," she said, adding that over 32,000 trees have been planted.

Through the 'Panda Kenya' project, the Enactus team, which comprises of 120 members, worked with different stakeholders to increase forest cover by planting moringa and bamboo trees that adapt well to the climatic conditions of the region and have a high economic value.

ECONOMIC VALUE

"The choice of trees planted was motivated by their economic value," said Ms Chizanga who indicated that particular attention was towards Moringa and Bamboo species.

"After receiving an intensive training from Kenya Forestry Research Institute, we also trained different community groups on tree nursery establishment," she said.

Today, she says, a number of residents in the lakeside county have ventured in the business which has enabled them to create job opportunities and generate income.

They also took advantage of the invasion of the water hyacinth at the lake to turn them to 'fuel briquettes'.

The energy source that meets sustainability requirements says the communities have generated Sh3 million in over one and a half years.

As the cost of charcoal soars due to the current government ban on charcoal, Ms Chizanga said over 1263 local households use the fuel briquette and created up to 59 businesses employing over 400 people.

"The cost of a sack of charcoal goes at Sh1,800 while that of fuel briquette is Sh1,100," said a second year Information and Communication student Princess Atieno who is also part of the team.

The university has organised for a fundraising event to cater for travel and accommodation.

They have also opened M-Pesa Pay Bill number 249967 for financial assistance.

At the Enactus contest this year, students showcased over 20 community projects ranging from food security, health, green energy, water and technology solutions.