Thursday, May 14, 2015

Breakthrough made on clean fuel production

By Zephania Ubwani, Business Week Reporter

Arusha. At Olorien, a suburb to the south-east of Arusha, a breakthrough in environmental technology has been made to manage industrial liquid waste and at the same time provide clean fuel to run the machinery.

The project has brought together research experts from the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) in Arusha and the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) on one hand.

On the other, is Banana Investments Limited, a winery plant belonging to a local entrepreneur and some non-governmental organisations responsible for environment, including the Dar es Salaam-based Agenda for Environment and Responsible Development.

The newly-installed plant, according to the project team Prof Karoli Njau from NM-AIST, can purify and recycle over 100 cubic litres of liquid waste which can be re-used for irrigation or safe enough to be discharged into a river.

Adolf Olomi, the managing director of Banana Investments Limited, is happy that the project can increase efficiency, raise production and hence enable his plant to make more earnings into his plant which makes the famous banana wine.

“It has always been our biggest headache on how to dispose waste water from the factory because for every 100 litres of wine produced there is 40 litres of waste liquid being discarded,” he said

According to him, the factory discharges at least 80,000 litres of liquid waste on daily basis, at least under the current production rate which at one time stood at 1.9 miilion litres of wine a day.

Mr Olomi could not give statistics on the added value of the new plant to his booming banana wine business but sees it as a hybrid technological solution he has yearned for years.

“Recycling waste is an option we in the business community are now preferring in order to improve sanitation and at the same time make money through re-use of the discarded items,” he said.

For Arusha City, for instance, recent figures indicate that about 550 tonnes of solid waste is generated daily and that about 70 per cent of them are dumped at official sites.

No figures are available for liquid wastes from the industrial plants, except his and the city’s sewerage system, institutions, commercial premises like hotels and supermarkets and elsewhere.

The minister for Communication, Science and Technology Prof Makame Mbarawa officially inaugurated the great innovation plant on May 29th and had this to say:

“Good research projets have always been accomplished through mutual cooperation from different institutions,” he said and lauded the two institutions of higher learning (Nelson Mandela University and UDSM) for the innovation.

This, the minister said, was a hybrid technological solution and an indication for pioneering combined research projects “that do not end up in papers but proceed to yield tangible solutions to current problems.”

The new plant at the Arusha winery has been realised within the framework of Bio-Innovate project 5 on ‘Integrated Process for Sustainable Agro-process Waste Treatment and Climate Change Mitigation in eastern Africa’ was executed under a professor from NM-AIST and Prof Cuthbert Kimambo of UDSM. It was supported by the NGOs, being the Dar-based Agenda, the WWS Design and Development Company and the Swedish International development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and Envicon through the Bio-Innovate Programme

“Recognising the challenges in managing waste water from a bust factory like breweries plants we designed and constructed an innovate wastewater management technology for Banana Investment Limited which is a banana alcoholic beverages producer based in Arusha,” said Prof Njau.

He was of the view that while the government has reserved special zones for industries to start and expand many factories face encroachment from people building residential houses or establishing farms near them.

This, according to the don, has reduced expansion land especially when it comes to constructing wastewater facilities. Constant conflicts between people and these industries have become common.

The Integrated Process for Sustainable Agro-process Waste Treatment for industrial effluents has thus solved the problem at Banana breweries by building an equalisation tank, a clarifier, two tanks including one for screening, a bio-digester and ‘slud drying bed.

The Arusha banana wine-making firm started in 1993 and is credited to have experienced remarkable growth to produce several alcoholic beverages in its production line.

The company’s industrial processes generate a lot of wastewater and this posed a big challenge on how to safely dispose off this effluent.

The problem was further aggravated by the fact that the company is located in a residential area with no sewer system. Before Bio-Innovate’s intervention, the wastewater disposal system then was outdated and recycling was impossible.

The banana wine made at Mr Olomi’s plant is already popular not only in Arusha but also in neighbouring Kilimanjaro, Manyara and Singida regions and as far as Morogoro, Dar es Salaam and Tanga.

The plant, which started as a backyard business for the former insurance expert, is now one of the leading employers in Arusha, which is good news for the economy.

At one time, Banana Investments employs a total of 340 permanent workers inspite of the fact that some operations at the factory have been partly automated to cope with new technologies in beverage making.

At least 30 per cent of the workers are either university graduates or holders of ordinary and advanced diplomas or full technician certificates (FTCs), the latter a prerequisite for industrial technicians.

By 2009, production stood at 2,500 crates of wine a day. Each crate is filled with 24 bottles each with a capacity of 330 milli litres. That makes a total of 60,000 bottles of 1.9m litres of banana wine daily.

“Banana wine is a better quality product compared to local brews which are not hygenically prepared, making it risky to the health of people,” he explained.

The whole venture can be traced to 1989 when Mr Olomi, then an employee of an insurance company in Arusha, started to make wine in his Olorien residence just for local consumption.

The wine soon gained popularity and in July 1993 he started formal business with six employees and bottling at least 30 crates of the beverage a day.