To mitigate the negative effects of urbanization on resource use and environmental pollution, 15 key actors in the waste-sanitation-agriculture interface joined efforts to set up a Circular Bioeconomy Innovation Hub in Ghana. Based on a decade of CGIAR research, the hub links ministries, universities, science, and private sector, to offer their infrastructure and knowledge for building capacity in circular bio-solution for school students to professionals. Using co-ownership principles, the hub builds on jointly defined objectives and workplans.
The challenges of increasing urbanization in terms of food security and resource use, governance, and adequate waste management are growing with the urban populations. How can the negative urban footprint be mitigated? How can we reduce the mountains of food waste and safeguard the peri-urban environment? In response, the CGIAR Initiative on Resilient Cities has facilitated a Circular Bioeconomy Innovation Hub in Ghana linking key stakeholders from the public and private sector, research, and education. Under the leadership of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the Innovation Hub builds on a decade of CGIAR research on Resource Recovery and Reuse (RRR) from technology development to business modeling, the implementation of Public-Private Partnerships, and commercialization of recovered resources. The Hub can showcase, for example, how organic waste is transformed into safe compost and co-compost (with fecal sludge), dry fuel (briquettes), biochar or biogas, or how aquaculture can be a thriving business in symbiosis with wastewater treatment plants. Knowledge sharing ranges from hands-on training in biomass transformation and valorization, business development, the analysis of the enabling environment, demand exploration, and marketing. The capacity-building program is not only targeting young professionals of micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), but also the public sector, and has programs for schools looking at what households can contribute to a circular bioeconomy.
To ensure broad buy-in for a sustainable implementation, and increase its outreach, the Hub is running on co-ownership principles. Based on scoping and screening exercises involving 24 key stakeholders from various sectors, so far 15 organizations have formally accepted to co-convene the hub, by adding their resources and/or using it for capacity development. These organizations are from public institutions (e.g., Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources, and Ministry of Food and Agriculture), private organizations/MSMEs (e.g., Clean Team, Safisana, Jekora Ventures Limited, MDF Training & Consultancy), NGOs (e.g., Catholic Relief Services), two university-based Centers (Regional Water and Environmental Sanitation Center, Kumasi), Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies, Accra) and international research organizations (International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) and IWMI). The creation of this platform of co-conveners allows the linking of efforts of key organizations in the promotion of practical examples on how to implement and scale circular bioeconomy options in a local or regional context. Following the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” the approach links demand (agriculture) and supply (waste management) and moves away from the overly technical focus of most circular initiatives. Finally, the Hub will also support accompanying research on its components including cropping trials with different waste-derived soil fertility enhancing resources.
The Hub is coming at the right time. Stakeholders seek support for fostering circular innovations and the buy-in exceeds our most optimistic expectations. The Hub also helps Ghana’s Government in the commercialization of research and innovation, as shown in the interest of Ghana’s Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation (MESTI), where the Hub supports the Ghana Commercialization Partnership Program, linking it to key related players like GIZ, the European Union, the World Bank, local embassies, and more.
Pay Drechsel, Circular Bioeconomy lead of the Initiative at IWMI Colombo, stressed that “first tangible outcomes become apparent: Sri Lanka’s Waste Management Authority asked us to join them as knowledge partner in establishing a second Innovation Hub in Sri Lanka where the authority is starting an officially accredited vocational training school for the whole country at a local resource recovery center.”
Header photo: Urban agriculture in Ghana. Photo by Nana Kofi Acquah/IWMI