Sharon Onyango has emerged winner in the just concluded #MyLittleBigThing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2020 Challenge in a competition JKUAT cemented its dominance.
The JKUAT Landscape Planning and Conservation student, with her Ecotopia Pavers project, follows in the footsteps of Brian Were and Stephen Muchiri who carried the day in previous #MyLittleBigThing challenges 2018 and 2019 respectively.
The challenge, which was held virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is organized by MK Afrika in partnership with Cambridge University and Safaricom among other partners. With a decade left to achieve Vision 2030, the organisers invite university students from across the country to submit innovative ideas around the SDGs.
The ideas presented must be home-grown solutions that are scalable and commercially viable, covering one or more of the 17 SDGs, hence addressing Africa’s sustainability issues.
Sharon’s Ecotopia Pavers innovation addresses SDG 11 and seeks to provide sustainable solutions to pavement construction using eco-friendly permeable paving blocks that reduce temperatures and enhance flood management in urban areas.
During her research, Sharon established that currently, half the world’s population lives in cities with up to 75% of impermeable pavements which are compact and absorb a lot of heat due to low reflectivity causing urban heat islands. The pavements also have low infiltration rate causing urban floods during rainy season.
“The innovation is designed to reduce heat in urban areas by replacing impermeable pavements which inhibit air-soil-heat exchange with permeable paving blocks that have more air voids and large surface area for air circulation to increase heat exchange between the soil and air, therefore reducing near-surface temperature,” explains Sharon.
Why Ecotopia? Sharon says it is derived from the words ecology and utopia to mean an ecologically ideal place.
With the win, Sharon takes home Kshs. 100,000/-, a business course at Cambridge University on sustainability essentials, and mentorship for one year to make her project a viable business. The cash prize, she says, will be vital in the proof of concept for her project and buying equipment for the work.
The Ecotopia Pavers Project, November 2019, came second in the inaugural HatchHack Hackathon competition, held at JKUAT Main Campus and Sharon appreciates the mentorship of Dr. Rehema Ndeda for her valuable advice in the design and execution of the project.
Out of the 14 finalists of the challenge, Sharon was joined by four other JKUAT Students; Mercy Kasyoka with her Disability Inclusion to Work project; Mercy Kiptui with her Nywele Nyumbani innovation; Caleb Ndunda with his Smart 360 project and Purity Ng’ang’a with her Urban Farming innovation.