Water Hyacinth Project






Water Hyacinth Project in Kenya

Student challenge: HAMK Global Sustainability/Creating Sustainable

Solutions Course Egerton University and Gulu University

Company: Not yet determined

Contact Person: Teija Lehtonen, HAMK

Schedule: 1.9-31.12.2022

Project Background

Water hyacinth is a perennial aquatic plant which causes multifaceted problems – environmental, economic and social – also around Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake. The impacts of water hyacinth are many at various levels of society. Biodiversity and aquatic flora and fauna composition changes. This threatens ecological sustainability of freshwater resources, but it also has impact on the economics of the communities dependent or benefitting on lakes and freshwaters. Economic impacts have direct links to social welfare of the communities. In summary, water hyacinth is causing system level challenges in the water dependent communities.

The accumulated understanding on eradication and utilization of water hyacinth can be summarized so that the only viable way to keep water hyacinth in control is large scale usage of the biomass. Water hyacinth is difficult if not impossible to destroy. Massive use of water hyacinth biomass with practical, sustainable, and cost-effective approach is needed. If water hyacinth is to be used in the community level, the utilization has to be simple and low-technology-based. Usage has to be easily adoptable, cheap and eco-friendly and in large enough scale to have any long-term impact. For the local stakeholders, it is critical that the usage has direct incentives in form on employment, products or economic benefits. A good example of that, is a current use of water hyacinth as a raw material to make livestock feed.

There are past and on-going projects to explore the utilization of water hyacinth in biofuel options. The options, such as biogas, bioethanol and pellets/briquettes have shown their potential but are not yet extensively exploited in Kenya. Biogas and bioethanol are clean-burning and possible to use in different energy applications such as cooking and lighting fuel, heat, cooling, electricity, but for household use the equipment have not been affordable for most families.

The community scale production of biochar or biogas would ensure locally produced, affordable and clean energy which is the focus of the SDG number 7. The large-scale utilization of water hyacinth for energy aims to create new jobs and improve living conditions around Lake Victoria. The project, therefore, aims to contribute directly to SDG number 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Tasks

The overall project objective of the student challenge “Water Hyacinth project in Kenya” is to examine the utilization of water hyacinth and its value chains in energy and nutrient recycling sector, see figure below.

The Student Team Will

  • Conduct a literature review and interviews with key stakeholders on local approach to utilize water hyacinth biomass in Kenya – current approach and future ideas/plans
  • Study the value chains from water hyacinth biomass to final products. The value chains related to the following utilization/treatment options are studied: a) biogas production, b) biochar production, c) bioethanol production and d) pelletizing/briquetting. A value chain to be studied is also e) harvesting and delivering the biomass to the treatment plant.
  • For each value chain
    • identify the main players involved
    • study the economical, societal and environmental aspects
    • identify local companies and other stakeholders for potential collaboration

The student challenge will be implemented in collaboration with Egerton University, Gulu University, Häme University of Applied Sciences, ADRA Finland Foundation and Community Initiative for Development (COMID) in Homa Bay County, Kenya. A literature review, interviews and workshops with all partner university students will be conducted virtually during September-October.

The student teams will prepare a report of 25-40 pages, power point presentation and a poster to be presented in the final event on 7th December, 2022. In addition, students will contribute with HAMK communication including blog posts and social media posts.

Eligibility criteria: Final Year undergraduates (nearing completion of special projects) and first MSc students (should have defended their proposals) in the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment (FAE).

Number of Slots: 6

Interested eligible students in the faculty of Agriculture and environment can send their application and letter of motivation to: Assoc. Prof. Basil Mugonola; email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Closing date: Thursday, August 25th 2022 at 5:00 PM EAT.

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