Biowaste innovation earns engineer coveted award

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A chemical engineer, Noël N’guessan, was awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering’s 2021 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation with a biowaste equipment innovation for smallholder farmers in West Africa. This biowaste equipment aims to efficiently manage and generate income from biowaste. N’guessan is the second Ivorian to win the Africa Prize, and the first to win with an Ivorian-based innovation.

N’guessan and his team designed and patented Kubeko to assist smallholder farmers and their co-operatives to generate more income from the byproducts of their harvests, without any additional labour. Kubeko is a set of low-cost biowaste processing equipment. Its composter and biodigester are both specifically designed to ferment agricultural post-harvest byproducts into solid and liquid compost, and cooking gas.

“Biowaste represents two to five times the quantity of crops or produce sold, amounting to 30 million tons of waste disposed of annually in Côte d’Ivoire,” said N’guessan. “By repurposing this waste, Kubeko can help Ivorians generate extra income, dramatically improving the lives of thousands of farmers and their families.”

N’guessan won the first prize of £25 000. At the virtual awards ceremony held on 8 July 2021, four finalists delivered presentations before Africa Prize judges and a live audience voted for the most promising engineering innovation.

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Since being shortlisted for the Africa Prize, the Kubeko team have made progress in reducing its production costs from US$800 to US$700, making their products affordable. The team installed two biodigesters on cassava farms and 50 composters on cocoa, palm oil, and mango farms.

They have also been commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development in Côte d’Ivoire to train stakeholders as part of the department’s national composting and biowaste strategy. – Press release, Royal Academy of Engineering