The first biodiesel-powered bus in Africa yesterday made its maiden trip from Kigali to Bujumbura in the first of its frequent trips to the neighbouring country.
The bus, according to the Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (IRST), will be run using 100 percent biodiesel, a development that is likely to give a major boost to environmental protection.
The biodiesel in the bus is manufactured in Rwanda, whose production, according to IRST Director General, Jean Baptiste Nduwayezu, is one way of making the country self sufficient.
“Rwanda as a land-locked country, the only way it can reduce dependence on other countries would be through producing its own biodiesel,” said Nduwayezu adding that the diesel also helps in cutting carbon emissions.
The biodiesel which is currently being produced at IRST is obtained from palm tree oil, Jatropha and Moringa tress, and according to Nduwayezu, the institute is currently getting raw materials from the neighbouring countries of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The institute presently has a daily production capacity of 2,000 litres.
In her speech at the launch of the Rwanda Biodisel Express bus, the IRST board chairperson, Sharon Haba, said that IRST’s efforts in researching and developing ways of protecting the environment are some of the government’s priorities.
She however said that the environment protection issue is cross-cutting and that one country cannot be able to solve it alone without mutual partnerships with the neighbouring countries, which is why there exists a partnership between IRST and Burundi University on the biodiesel research project.
“This research, which has so far proven successful, will help in the country’s development and will usher in sustainable development, hence cutting on the foreign dependency,” she elaborated.
Haba also called upon other research institutes in the country to come up with solutions to some of the pressing issues, adding that it is through such accomplishments that Rwanda’s aspiration of becoming a leader in research and technology will be realised.
Rwanda needs 2, 225 hectares of land to be able to start producing the raw materials used in producing biodiesel.
Speaking to The New Times, the Minister of Forestry and Mines, Christopher Bazivamo, dispelled fears that growing of biodiesel plants in Rwanda would lead to abandoning of production of food crops.
“That is not true. The government has plans of how these plants will be grown without interfering with normal food production in the country,” said Bazivamo.
According to Bazivamo, plants like Jatropha and Palm can be grown along the roads and between paddocks in farms and said that this will help farmers to earn some money from the plants.
He added that there are other areas that were found to be suitable for these plants and had not been productive with other crops.
The biodiesel policy has already been formulated and is yet to be presented for approval.