Vestergaard Frandsen Starts Voluntary Carbon Project in Kenya

Vestergaard Frandsen, a maker of disease-control products for poor nations, will start operating a carbon-offset program in western Kenya that also curbs water-borne illnesses.

The Switzerland-based company plans to distribute 970,000 water-purification systems to almost every household in Kenya’s Western province, helping 4.5 million people to access clean drinking water, Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen, chief executive officer, said in a phone interview from Lausanne on April 20.

“We expect this to have a massive impact on health and be financed by the carbon market,” Vestergaard Frandsen said. “We are hoping to reduce the incidents of diarrhea and respiratory infection -- two of the biggest diseases in sub-Saharan Africa.”

The Carbon for Water program, certified by the Gold Standard Foundation, a Geneva-based registry for voluntary carbon credits, may reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in the East African nation by as much as 2.5 million metric tons a year, he said. JP Morgan Chase & Co. agreed to purchase 1.2 million tons of voluntary emission-reduction credits generated by project in 2012, he said.

Kenya’s carbon-dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels totalled 11.4 million tons in 2009, up from 11.2 million tons a year earlier, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Website.

The device, known as Lifestraw Family, hangs from a wall and uses gravity to pull water from a bucket at the top through a one-meter (3.3-foot) hose containing a chamber with membranes that removes bacteria, viruses and parasites.

Quenching Thirst

Each system can purify as much as 18,000 liters (4,749 gallons) of water, enough to quench the thirst of a family of five for as long as three years, according to the company’s website.

The Lifestraw system is meant to replace the more common method in Kenya of firing up stoves powered by charcoal and non-renewable fuels to boil water and kill bacteria. Chopping down trees for charcoal production can accelerate the loss of forest areas, which soak up carbon.

Gold Standard certified projects are intended to trade on the global $186 million voluntary carbon market, which relies on purchases from companies and individuals for purposes other than meeting Kyoto or European Union regulatory targets.

Vestergaard Frandsen said he plans to recoup the up-front investment of $25 million in Kenya through the emissions-trading scheme and to plough back a “large part” of any additional profits into sustaining the program over the next decade.

Kenya’s swelling urban population tends to settle in overcrowded slums that often lack basic services including piped, treated water or toilets. About 57 percent of Kenya’s population has access to safe drinking water, while 42 percent to sanitation facilities, according to 2006 United Nations data.

The company plans to start distributing the Lifestraw Family systems in Kakamega, the capital of Western Province bordering Uganda, from today and complete deliveries in May.

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