Award for making diesel from trees

Business

By Isaiah Lucheli

If Kenya is to make a breakthrough in producing commercially viable bio-diesel, then the man who would be at the first filling station has just received an international award for his efforts in promoting renewable energies.

Isaac Kalua, who has been carving a niche for himself internationally with his environmental conservation works, was on another award dais last Sunday.

Founder of Green Africa Foundation Isaac Kalua (right) is Awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Professor Clyde Rivers, Chief Chancellor of the United Graduate College and Seminary of US as the university’s International representative Dr Ngabo Happy David looks on. [PHOTO: EVANS HABIL/STANDARD]

Kalua was awarded an honorary doctorate in humanities by the United Graduate College and Seminary of US for his conservation efforts.

The university’s Chief Chancellor Clide Rivers also appointed Kalua the institution’s Green Ambassador, describing him as an achiever out to restore Africa’s destroyed environmental beauty.

The rich citation for the award at one point sounded like it was drawn from the citation of Prof Wangari Maathai when she won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in environmental conservation.

Internationally

For Kalua, efforts that have made him famous internationally may not include everything he has been doing on the ground.

His project to boost production of biodiesel from jatropha tree seeds has seen him establish a research centre in Kitui, where he runs a nursery that distributes seedlings to farmers across the country.

Jatropha is a tree whose seeds are used for the production of biofuels. Since the commencement of the project, over 4,000 farmers in the have adopted Jatropha Curcas cultivation while related work like collecting seeds for the research centre has created jobs for over 2,000 people.

Kalua’s Green Africa Foundation and various Government bodies such as Kenya Bio-diesel Association have been instrumental in drafting of the Session Paper on bio-diesel policy.

Prince Albert II of Monaco, who funds the jatropha project, paid a courtesy visit to Green Africa Foundation’s center last month, to assess the progress of the Yatta-Jatropha Plantation.

On Sunday, it was Kalua’s other conservation works that drew him admiration from Chancellor Clide Rivers, as he said: "The earth is crying out following the wanton destruction of the environment and God wants somebody to speak to the earth. That person is none other than Kalua." During the award ceremony held at held at the KICC, Rivers took issue with the developed nations for majoring on the negative attributes of Africa, instead of achievements of the continent.

"Kalua is one of the achievers in Africa and all achievers should work on painting a positive image of the continent abroad to change the perception of the West," said the Chancellor.

In his acceptance speech, Kalua said it was his dream to see the world green and improve the life of the people.

"Green in our foundation has three meanings, the first is to be kind to people by putting a smile on them, the second green is for good health and livelihoods of communities and the third green is the actual representation of God’s will to conserve the environment," said Kalua

Born in a semi-arid region Kitui, Kalua says he witnessed first-hand effects of destruction through the felling of trees and charcoal burning, which plunged thousands of people into poverty and dependence on relief supplies.

The situation spurred Kalua to make a difference for the better for the suffering people.

Kalua’s role in the conservation of the environmental has since earned him recognition from many quarters including a Presidential Commendation Award from President Kibaki.

Lead organisation

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently presented the foundation with a Sports and Environment Awarded as the lead organisation in Africa for using sports for environmental conservation.

"By thinking green and acting green, I started by turning my farm in the semi arid region into a plantation of trees. I did not seek any financial assistance, I wanted to do it on my own to prove a point. That it is possible to achieve a green dream even without funding," says Kalua.

Kalua has seen the foundation grow from a small organisation to an institution that has launched programmes to assist communities with projects like the introduction of biofuels.

Kalua believes the use of biofuels and other renewable energy methods is among key aspects that would enable Kenya to conserve the environment.

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