Tuesday, October 11, 2005

KIST : An Award Winning Innovator

As many of you know, I try to limit my articles to private organizations involved in non-profit work. But today I must give respect to a public organization that I believe is operating in the spirit of "Self Help" that this Blog seeks to recognize.

The award winning Kigali Institute of Science, Technology and Management (KIST) is the first public technological institute of higher learning in Rwanda. The Institute only came into existence on November 1st, 1997 as a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project. And since that time it has won Ashden Award For Sustainable Energy First Prize in 2001 for its improved bread oven. It won an Ashden Award again in 2005. This time it was the Special Africa Award for its Biogas plants projects in three prisons in that country. The projects were the 'Management of Toilet Wastes Through Anaerobic Technology.' And the award of £30,000 was given to KIST for "underlining the vital role which small-scale sustainable energy can play in tackling both climate change and poverty in Africa."

The Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy have been awarded for the past five years for "inspirational and innovative renewable energy projects which both provide social and economic benefits to local communities and contribute towards protecting the environment by curbing deforestation and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels - thereby helping tackle climate change."

When KIST opened it had major degree programmes in engineering and management and it was part of Rwanda Government's mission to build a strong post-genocide human resource base. Such a base was desperately needed after the terrible violence that took so man lives in the early nineties. The establishment of KIST as an institute of science, technology, and management has been part of rebuilding process in Rwanda by addressing the shortage of qualified technical experts since that violence who could help rebuild the infrastructure.

When the Institute was developed, it was made possible by the combined efforts of the Government of Rwanda as the main stakeholder, UNDP (Rwanda) as the executor of the project, and the German Agency for Technical Co-operation (GTZ) as the implementing agency. This cooperative effort was funded by a UNDP core funding and a UNDP Trust Fund obtained from contributions by the Governments of Japan and the Netherlands. Japan and the Netherlands continue to be very supportive of KIST along with the UNDP and GTZ (a German owned Development Agency).

Working to build an indigenous scientific and technical human resource base through its regular, part-time, and outreach programs, KIST's impact is already being felt in most parts of the country. Today, KIST has two campuses, four faculties and a Centre for Continuing Education (CCE).

KIST also operates a number of service and training centers and/or demonstration units and key facilities in furtherance of its mission.

These include separate centers for:
Gender Studies and Women in Development (CGSWD)
Inovations and Technology Transfer (CITT)
Technology and Business Incubation (CTBI)
Information and Communication Technology Service
The KIST/ DFID Information and Communication Technology Training Centre; and
Career Guidance and Counseling.

In January of 2005 the UK Secretary of State for International Development recognized KIST's rising prominence during a lecture when he stated that "an organization like KIST - the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, in Rwanda - is a superb example of building African scientific capacity."

The Institute's received further international acclaim when the March 2005 Report of the Commission for Africa named KIST as one of several "excellent centers, institutes, universities and partnerships" that exist in Africa.

The Bread oven, whose design won KIST the 2001 Ashden Award uses a quarter of the wood used by traditional wood-burning ovens. It was principally designed for institutional use and can bake 320 small loaves at a time. It also presents a good opportunity for baking bread on a commercial basis as fuel consumption of this oven is low.

The rate of deforestation in Rwanda is estimated to exceed the rate of tree planting by a factor of twenty. This makes the need to reduce dependence on wood as cooking fuel very obvious, and KIST's oven cuts consumption by 75%. Also, while normally fired by burning wood, the oven can be adapted to use methane from a biogas plant.

Realizing that the oven fits into the overall economy of the nation KIST teaches artisans how to make the stoves in workshops at its Centre for Innovation and Technology Transfer (CITT) in Kigali. The Institute also conducts follow-up training sessions in small workshops in towns outside Kigali. In addition to providing training in oven construction, KIST has also run training workshops on bread making, and on business and marketing skills.

It has been training bakery operators through the Centre for Innovation and Technology Transfer how to understand their market, to properly estimate the size of their market and what they can reasonably expect to sell.

Since the award was received in 2001, approximately 200 stoves have been produced, 120 of these at the KIST workshops, the rest by private operators who were originally trained by KIST and who are now working outside Kigali. The Centre for Innovation and Technology Transfer has trained 15 people how to make the new ovens, a total of 10 entrepreneurs have been taught how to bake and have been given some basic business skills to help them sell their bread.

Biogas Production Process - Rwanda houses 120,000 genocide suspects in prisons currently awaiting trial. Because of this, this nation's prisons must prepare many meals and treat a great deal of sewage. In fact, each of its prisons must dispose approximately 50,000 liters of human waste each day.

KIST found one solution to both of these large problems. It designed a method of capturing the methane from the raw human sewage and turn it into cooking gas. This process even has a byproduct as the residue left after capturing the gas from the sewage can be safely used as fertilizer on crops to feed the prisoners.

Because of this system, less firewood has to be produced, thereby saving forests and enhancing the environment - a more efficient cooking fuel is produced - waste management is made more efficient and fertilizer is produced inexpensively.

Five of the country's largest prisons now have these systems which are largely built by the prisoners themselves under the guidance of trained masons and other skilled professionals. Work, which by the way, gives the prisoners skills that will serve them and their communities well when they're eventually released.

It is certainly easy to understand how such creative thinking could win an award.

Rwanda and KIST are making future plans for this process, as it might be easily adaptable to schools and other institutional environments.

I think that this is one Government run organization that I think you should really read about.

Kigali Institute of Science, Technology and Management

1 comment:

Thebongs said...

Can you forward me the dialing numbers for CITT at KIST. to Ntombeb@sabs.co.za

We would like to invite a student from this centre to attend our innovation and design workshop in South Africa from 12-16 June 2008. I have tried to get hold of the CITT Director but no number available on the website.