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Kenya’s Vuma Biofuels banks on sugar-cane biomass to supply energy for refugees

By David Whitehouse
Posted on Thursday, 25 February 2021 19:29

Workers unload sugar canes from a tractor at an open yard in the Mumias sugar factory in western Kenya February 24, 2015. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

The idea of using sugar-cane husks as a source of biomass fuel came to Ian Otula in 2013 as he was working on a science project at school.

Now aged 25, Otula is CEO of Vuma Biofuels and is in discussions with the UN Refugee Agency the UNHCR to extend the use of sugar-cane biomass energy to refugees in Kenya.

There are about 500,000 refugee households in Kenya, mainly from Somalia and South Sudan, making the country Africa’s second-largest refugee host. A solution is needed quickly, as refugees are mostly using smuggled wood and charcoal for heating, says Otula.