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Beloved Sechele

Young Leaders Trailblazing the Search to Carbon Capture Solutions

On 10 November 2023, the MCFEA Carbon Capture Technologies Design and Innovation Challenge came to an end as the five participating teams presented their final solutions to the challenge. The Challenge was focused on finding new mechanisms to maximize the carbon stored in soil while maximizing yield, improving nutrition, and maintaining biodiversity. Our AL for Infrastructure network members, to no one’s surprise, showed out! This Challenge was admittedly one of the most complex ones that has been presented to our network and they did not disappoint.

Winners Picture

After the five teams presented their remarkable solutions, the judges went into deliberations on who would come out on top. They admitted to it not being an easy decision but, in the end, decided on the worthy winners: Team 1, comprising current ALA students – Mulindi Fabris (Uganda), Adem Amir Ezzedini (Tunisia), Christine Fillidah Wanjiku Kabiru (Kenya), and Tiekoura Ouattara (Côte d’Ivoire). This team was the only one that was made up of ALA students, therefore making this an even more impressive feat.

Their solution impressed the judges by being simplistic – focusing on the basics – yet innovative. Team 1 proposed utilizing an irrigation system to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Their comprehensive analysis explores various methods to address the increasing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and focuses on implementing a system in agriculture and industries. The chosen solution entails using a specially designed tank to create compost from decomposing organic compounds. The separated water from this process, mixed with salt, undergoes electrolysis to produce sodium hydroxide (NaOH), which is then introduced into irrigation systems. During irrigation, the sodium hydroxide reacts with carbon dioxide in the soil, effectively capturing carbon. To balance the soil’s PH, compost generated from the tank is added as a soil conditioner. Feasibility studies, including scalability, cost, and environmental impact, were conducted, leading to the selection of this irrigation-based carbon capture solution.

The implementation plan involves the design of a compost generation tank, sodium hydroxide production through electrolysis, carbon capture during irrigation, and soil pH management. Small-scale pilot tests with local farmers will validate the effectiveness of the solution, and collaboration with agricultural associations will facilitate widespread adoption. The budgeting includes development costs, operational costs, and marketing expenses, with revenue projections suggesting a potential market opportunity. The target market comprises agricultural producers, emphasizing environmentally conscious farmers and regions with a focus on sustainable agriculture. The solution is positioned to contribute to reducing carbon emissions and enhancing soil health in the agricultural industry, aligning with the growing demand for sustainable practices globally.

Succeeding Team 1 as runner-up is Team 2 – made up of Sarah Kendall (Kenya) Meng; Electrical and Electronics Engineering student from the University of Pretoria, Emmanuel Bilson (Ghana) BEng, Electrical and Electronics Engineering Graduate from Ashesi University and Content Developer for Practical Education Network; and Denis Tumusiime (Uganda) BSc, Industrial Chemistry, Production and Process Engineering Graduate and Quality Controller at Pristine Foods Ltd. Their solution is a Modern Silvopastoral Agroforestry System (MSAS). “MSAS is an improved farming practice and a fit natural climate solution applied to mitigate climate change and for better land use, cumulative CO2 capture, conserving biodiversity, better yield, and improved nutrition.” They believe in this innovation because it is very cost-effective and scalable. Team 2 also maintains that the solution’s potential enables farmers to tap into carbon credits at all levels giving it a unique business added advantage.

The teams were supported by mentors assigned from our network. These mentors attended their weekly iterative presentations for 9 weeks, providing valuable feedback and insights as they were developing their solutions. According to the feedback that has been collected from the participating teams – this is what made the experience valuable. Every week they had to present the work they had done. This enabled them to make continuous progress, remain aligned with the terms of the challenge and what was asked of them, and work on their presentation skills. They appreciate having to learn how to present their ideas and work succinctly through slides.

Some of the other solutions that were presented are a Biochar-Silica Powder Composite, presented by Group 5: Jacob Aketch (South Sudan), Miranda Fiavi (Ghana), and Tinashe Kanukai (Zimbabwe). Group 3 proposed a solution that embraces Enhanced Rock Weathering. This team is made up of Brendon Mahere (Zimbabwe), Daisy Mukarakate (Zimbabwe), and Jeff Watitwa (Kenya).

We appreciate the hard work that all the teams and mentors put into the success of this Challenge. We would like to extend our greatest gratitude to the Mitsubishi Corporation Fund for Europe and Africa (MCFEA) team for their continuous support and meaningful contributions. We hope to continue to collaborate with partners as such as we contribute towards the development of the skills of young African leaders in infrastructure.

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