To him trash is cash from innovative lens.
His wide range of products at his Burma Light Industries in Nakuru is fashioned from recycled materials and electronic waste.
Fredrick Gathuita (44), fabricates energy saving cookers, solar water heaters and an array of electronic products including inverters, LED (Light Emitting Diode) signs, incubators, chips cookers and power backups from discarded materials.
Gathuita says his innovations are committed to ensuring adherence to environmental conservation through transforming and recycling waste into useful products.
“If used materials are not recycled, new products are made by extracting fresh, raw materials from the earth, through mining and forestry.
Recycling helps conserve important raw materials and protects natural habitats for the future” he offers.
At his Shuk Technology Solutions Workshop Gathuita has partnered with the National Industrial Training Authority (NITA), a venture that has seen seven youth aged between 19 and 30 years work as apprentices. Further, all the apprentices at his workshop are beneficiaries of the Kenya Youth Employment and Opportunities Project (KYEOP).
KYEOP project is being implemented by the government with the support of the World Bank whose two main components include private sector internships and training and capacity building and policy development.
The project is aimed at helping the government to empower youth, improve employability and boost economic growth.
“In its first phase KYEOP project picked 26,140 youth from Nakuru. Through the programme all my apprentices have been trained on how to start business, on book keeping and accounting, banking, saving, borrowing or lending from banks. Our duty is now to equip them with relevant work experience and skills through internship” explains Gathuita
Three of the apprentices at the workshop have been trained to fabricate energy-saving jikos designed in such a way that no firewood is used and people’s health is taken care of.
Two have been equipped with skills to manufacture LED signs, two ladies are getting trained on making chips cookers and incubators while Gathuita handles the more complex solar water heaters and power backups.
His collaboration with NITA and engagement with KYEOP beneficiaries he says is geared towards motivating youth interned at his workshop to think outside the box to their everyday challenges.
Gathuita notes that access to clean fuel and technologies is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals aimed at reducing excessive energy losses at household level.
“Most Kenyans rely on charcoal and firewood as sources of fuel. The global forest cover is shrinking at an alarming rate of about 3.3 million hectares every year, which is equivalent to almost five times the size of Nairobi County.
Our innovations ranging from solar water heaters, inverters, power backups, energy saving Jikos and LED signs are anchored on Sustainable Development Goal 7 which seeks to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” says Gathuita.
Nderitu Munge (26) an apprentice at the workshop says the energy saving jiko is designed to be fuelled by used engine oil as a way of stopping unsustainable use of wood fuel.
“Motor oil picks up a variety of hazardous contaminants such as lead, cadmium, chromium, arsenic, dioxins, benzene and polycyclic aromatics when used in engines and transmissions. When disposed of inappropriately and released into the environment, it harms humans, plants, animals, birds and marine life,” says Munge
He continues “With increasing uptake of technology in the energy sector, a majority of people are now looking for the most reliable form of energy for household use as opposed to wasteful charcoal stoves and which have also contributed to rise in illnesses due to indoor pollution”
Nancy Mumbi (30) and Maryanne Njeri (19) are all praises for the KYEOP project which they say has exposed them to fresh entrepreneurial skills.
“We want Kenyans to encourage women to enroll in larger numbers in Technical and Vocational Education Training Institutes (TVETs) for this country to achieve industrialization which is one of the government’s Big 4 agendas. KYEOP has equipped us with new skills in innovation,” said Ms Mumbi.
Dominic Mwangi (19) makes LED (light emitting diode) signs for supermarkets, restaurants and shops among others. “The key component of all our innovations at this workshop is to recycle discarded materials and waste which in turn conserves the environment,” states Mwangi.
He calls on policy makers in the country to promote use of discarded waste especially waste electronics which he says are polluting drinking water and harming ecosystems around the world.
“Mining metals for electrical and electronic equipment involves use of considerable amounts of land and consumption of huge quantities of energy. Moreover, mining generates large quantities of waste water as well as high emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and carbon dioxide (CO2), a well-known greenhouse gas. We can address this by promoting recycling of electronic waste,” explains Mwangi.
According to Munge, though many households in Kenya today have energy-saving jikos, most are designed to use energy sources such as wood, charcoal and saw dust as fuel hence dependence on forest resources.
“Each of our energy saving and environmentally friendly jikos that are made in different sizes and shapes to satisfy various customer specifications uses an average of five liters to cook for more than 72 hours.
The workshop he says has been churning out about 60 jikos every month and that customers keep coming back for more.
“We start by identifying proper metal sheet varieties that make the outer casing. The burner is made out of cast metal which is resistant to very high temperatures while the funnel that directs fumes out of the burning chamber is fashioned from heavy duty plain sheet” Mwangi explains.
He says that to ensure maximum safety used engine oil reservoir is connected to the burning chamber through air tight aluminum tubes. The jiko is fitted with motor driven by an ordinary battery which is charged by a solar panel.
“The fan is designed in a way that besides stoking the burning oil, it also helps blow fumes and smoke plumes into the exhaust chamber. This ensure that the environment where cooking is taking place remains clean and safe”.
The government, in a campaign to save lives lost to harmful emissions, is working on implementing policies that will see about seven million Kenyans adopt new technology stoves by 2020.
The policies target set projects that will scale up entrepreneur involvement in clean-cook stoves, as well as dissemination of operations.
According to Dr Isaac Kalua, the chairman of Green Africa Foundation, entrepreneurs have a chance to help stop unsustainable use of wood fuel, which diminish forest reserves.
Statistics from World Health Organization indicate that 900,000 children below five years die of pneumonia-related complications globally in a year. Most of these deaths are caused by indoor smoke in poorly ventilated homes.
The United Nations Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves estimates that indoor air pollution affects the lives of more than 14 million Kenyans annually.
By Anne Mwale