Lake Bogoria's Invisible Million Dollars

Lake Bogoria's Invisible Million Dollars

Lake Bogoria's Invisible Million Dollars

By / Sustainability / Thursday, 25 May 2017 15:46

My car was enjoying the drive as much as I was. The road was clear and although it was just after ten, it felt as if noon had already arrived with searing heat.

“This AC is not helping much,” I thought with a tinge of irritation as I made a mental note to ask Alex my mechanic to refill the car’s AC gas. After about twenty minutes, I saw on the horizon the beginnings of a town – a cluster of block-shaped shops, small groups of people milling around and several hawkers gazing towards me expectantly.

Mogotio. The name was written in bold black letters on one of the shops.

Ngapi?” How much? I asked a roast maize vendor who was sticking three steaming maize cobs through my half-open window.

Shilingi kumi ndugu!” Ten shillings brother! He answered in a happy voice. He was wearing a grey Ford Motors T-Shirt and a black cap whose faded yellow letters were unintelligible.  

Unaenda kuona flamingo?” Are you going to see the flamingoes? He asked me when I inquired if Lake Bogoria was nearby.

Naenda kuona microbes!” I am going to see microbes! I said cheekily, eliciting a puzzled look on his sweaty forehead.

People associate Lake Bogoria with its pink flamingoes and hot springs, not its microbes. However, those ultra-tiny microorganisms known as microbes have the ultra-gigantic potential of eventually overshadowing their pink neighbours. Since they can’t even be seen by the naked eye, their beauty cannot compare with flamingoes. Nevertheless, microbes have massive economic potential that arguably dwarfs flamingoes.

The reason I was on my way to Lake Bogoria was because of a story that I was doing for Radio France International about the Great Rift Valley’s Soda Lakes. In a bid to solidify and deepen the story, I had already had a meeting with Levis Kavagi the United Nations Environment’s Africa Coordinator of Ecosystem and Biodiversity. Over a cup of Cappuccino at the Java Restaurant in Gigiri, he told me about a UN Environment Project on microbes and later linked me up with several institutions that were part of that project. 

In a bid to ascertain exactly how valuable microbes are to Kenya, I then paid a visit to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) a few days before my trip to Lake Bogoria. I arrived at the KWS headquarters a few minutes after 10. Because it was Sunday, the usually full car park was almost empty, which suited me just fine because the serenity was comforting.

I had first stepped into the KWS Headquarters as an awestruck class 1 student of Buru Buru 1 Primary School back in the mid-eighties. Although this was probably my twentieth visit to the headquarters since then, I was still struck by its character and beauty. The Administration block where the reception was located had red tiles and smooth classical sturdy walls that gave it the impression of a Victorian building. A few metres away from the Administration block was the Nairobi National Park gate. It gave one an idea of what lay beyond it by spotting a two-dimensional sculpture of a lion.  

I was at the Kenya Wildlife Service offices that Sunday morning to meet with Kavaka Mukonyi, the KWS Head of Bioprospecting.

“Let me come to the main reception to pick you.” He told me on phone in a cheerful voice.

When I saw him a few minutes later, he looked just as cheerful as his voice. He is one of those people that have the word ‘sociable’ ingrained in their DNA. He led me along the long corridors as we conversed like old friends. When I read the ‘Bioprospecting’ that was emblazoned on his office door, I half expected that there would be a large microscope jutting out from his desk. But it was just a normal office with a flat computer screen and a bunch of papers on the desk.

A few minutes into our conversation, Kavaka uttered words that got my full attention, “The world is focusing on larger sized biological resources. But the developed countries are focusing on these things we don't see. The microbial that forms the basis of all of the biotech industry.”

I had always associated the word ‘biotech’ with Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) food. Don’t expect to find me on the cheerleading squad of GMOs since I am a staunch believer in organic food that hasn’t been modified genetically. When I read ‘The New Harvest,’ a book by Calestous Juma the late Harvard Professor and agricultural innovator, I was struck by this phrase, ‘despite potential setbacks, biotechnology has the potential to provide both great profits and the means to provide more food to those who need it in Africa.’ Although I agreed with the book’s principles on the need for agricultural innovation that would shun unproductive ‘business as usual’ agricultural practices, I remained unconvinced about an unbridled embrace of genetic engineering of food crops. But I digress. Biotech is of course not just about food.

I soon learnt from Kavaka that the tiny microorganisms contained in Lake Bogoria would in fact have huge financial benefits if successfully prospected and developed into industrially viable enzymes.

“When you check the global market, it is actually over 900 billion dollars, annually made from bioprospecting activities.” Kavaka said.

Then he proceeded to reveal something that left me with a deep sigh, “these profits are made by multi-nationals in developed countries but those who manage, the owners of the resource don't get anything.”   

Armed with a steaming fresh roast maize in my left hand and fresh directions to Lake Bogoria, I zoomed off from Mogotio town. As I approached Lake Bogoria, I started seeing some of those resource owners who don’t get anything. There were groups of young men herding goats and cattle in the distance. A few women were walking with expressionless looks on their pretty faces and water containers on their heads. Do they even know about those priceless microorganisms in their lake? I asked myself in a whisper before my attention shifted to the visible part of the Lake.

One week earlier, I had received some answers to these questions during my meeting with UN Environment’s Levis Kavagi. This time, I met him with the scenic UN campus in Gigiri. We sat at a coffee shop outside his office block and as we both sipped white coffees, he told me about ecosystem services, “For a community to be committed to conserving an ecosystem especially a lake such as Lake Bogoria, Lake Magadi, the soda lakes, they have to see how these lakes or ecosystems benefit them. The benefits are what we are calling ecosystem services.”

Levis is a passionate environmentalist who has a way of explaining things in a simple manner that can add converts to the environmental movement. I nodded as he continued, “the system that equitably shares the benefits especially the financial benefits that accrue from the utilization of genetic resources is what this project is looking at from a natural capital point of view.” He sneezed and excused himself before continuing, “This particular project is helping the communities to realize they have a capital and this capital is worth conserving. And if they conserve, they can see the benefits that will accrue from this capital.”

Levis Kavagi’s brown eyes had a flicker of animation that grew brighter the more he spoke. By the time he was done, I was convinced that the micro-organisms of Kenya’s soda lakes had massive potential of earning my beloved country so much money that it would finally sky-rocket into industrialized status. I had always believed that natural capital could build a firewall against poverty, disease and stress. This belief had become entrenched into my psyche when I fell in love with nature during those glorious childhood days of swimming in a shy, whistling river that flowed endlessly a few metres from our farm. Apart from granting my brothers and cousins great relaxation, this river also gave us fish and ensured my parents lush harvests. Indeed, it exemplified the power of natural capital.     

With his coffee cup drained but intensity still dripping from his eyes, Levis went on to tell me about a UN Environment Project that had brought together strategic stakeholders to “develop the microbial biotechnology industry from Kenya’s soda lakes in line with the Nagoya protocol.”

“Speak in English please,” I told Lewis as I waved at a former colleague who had just passed by our transparent meeting room.

The Nagoya Protocol was adopted on 29 October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan and entered into force on 12 October 2014. Its objective is the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources, thereby contributing to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.[1]   

UN Environment had brought together a genetic resources dream team comprising of the Kenya Wildlife Service which was the official steward of Lake Bogoria; members of the Endorois Community who were the ancestral stewards of the Lake; Nairobi University and Jomo Kenyatta University, whose scientists were microbes experts; Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute, whose knowledge and infrastructure would provide great incubation for the microbial technology and the Baringo County Government under whose administrative jurisdiction Lake Bogoria was under. This was the dream team that would hopefully deliver visible benefits of those invisible genetic resources in Lake Bogoria.

Would I find a vast army of flamingoes roaming the lake’s parched shores? I wondered hopefully as my Subaru Forrester, aka The Growler inched closer to Lake Bogoria. The last time I saw those majestic birds was in 2009 when I visited Lake Nakuru, another soda lake like Lake Bogoria. The dazzling beauty of their pink plumage and slender long legs had taken my breath away. I was therefore hoping to feast on the sight of these spectacular birds yet again. But they were nowhere to be seen when I finally parked near the lake shore and practically ran into the lake’s embrace.

The waters encircling my feet were a light shade of brown, like weak coffee. As a matter of fact, they reminded me of the Nescafe I used to take before I graduated to brewed Kenyan coffee and later on Rwandan Coffee (You have to try it, its stunning). Lake Bogoria’s waters were so calm that I could clearly see the ten fingers of my legs resting happily in the brownish sand. Then I heard a cackle to my right. It was barely perceptible, as if someone was pushing a chair gently on concrete floor. An African spoonbill was wading gently in the water, its long legs making it appear like the birds’ answer to giraffes. I smiled at it but it didn’t return my smile, seemingly engrossed in something deep in the waters. 

Just three days earlier, I had learnt about the vital economic importance of this lake to Baringo County.

“When we came in as the first ever County Government of Baringo County, we quickly learnt that Lake Bogoria was the resource that giving us the highest source of revenue. About 70, 80 million shillings.”  This information came from Hon. Kipchumba Keitany, Baringo County’s then County Executive for Industry, Commerce, Tourism and Enterprise Development.

We were meeting at Java House, Westside Mall in Nakuru. I was sipping cappuccino. He was drinking masala tea. The sun was smiling at our beverage choice, shining down brilliantly.

“There are people who have been taking care of these resources; there are people who were born here, and this is their resource. This is where they get their medicine, their therapeutic healing. They have been custodians of this beautiful lake for a long, long time.” Hon. Kipchumba told me.

For two hours, we had a concerted conversation about Lake Bogoria and the wider Rift Valley that it is a part of. He was so passionate about the Rift Valley – its people and natural resources – that during those two hours, we conceived an idea that led to the birth of the birth of an organization known as Great Rift Valley Centre for Research and Development (GRICERD). He became the founding Chairman of this organization and mobilized a highly talented and experienced team of Board Members to lead it in protecting natural resources like the beautiful Lake Bogoria.

You don’t have to go deep into this beautiful Lake to encounter microbes. You can even find them merely by walking on its shores. Unless you are there to specifically mine them, you will not even know that they are part of that mud or sand that has grazed onto your shoes. I was fed this morsel of microbe information by Professor Mulaa, a preeminent microbe expert and a lecturer at Nairobi University.

I visited Prof one Tuesday morning and began devouring the wealth of information that he was doling out in his quiet, authoritative manner. We were seated in his tiny office at Nairobi University’s Chiromo Campus, surrounded by books, files and knowledge. Weary shelves were lined with a mountain of books whose ruffled appearance meant that they had been read and re-read. There was barely any space on the lone medium-sized desk in the room. It was literally overflowing with documents that were like grains of knowledge just waiting to be devoured. He even had to clear the chair he offered me of some documents that had been reclining there before we rudely interrupted them.

Even before Prof began speaking, it almost felt as if I was in the visible headquarters of the invisible microbes.  

After very tiny small talk that lasted for a whopping thirty seconds, Prof launched into an exciting monologue on microbes, “these microorganisms can be turned into a resource or an industrial product that people can buy, people can use, basically to change their lives or basically develop industry.”

The humdrum of students conversing in low tones as they passed by the office filtered in. But I barely heard it as I continued feasting on Prof’s knowledge, “the same microorganisms, can also be developed to help agriculture in terms of crop protection. The next frontier of crop protection is using microorganisms to protect plants.”

Professor Mulaa knows what he is talking about not just because of his rich academic expertise in the sector, but also because he has personally developed enzymes from imperceptible tiny things into powerful industrial components. A few years earlier, he had meticulously developed enzymes that turn fish skin into leather in a process that is speedier and more environmentally friendly than the usual chemical-dependent industrial process.

“Here is the leather we produced,” he said as he fished out expensive looking elegant leather from a polythene paper under his desk. I placed it on my laps and caressed it with my index finger. It felt soft. It had the color of a starless midnight sky. When I turned it over, it was as if that night had just been lit by a full moon.

“What you are holding in your hands was once waste fish skin,” Professor Mulaa said.

Like all notable achievements, this wasn’t a one man show. He was assisted in this unprecedented venture by several other players including the Kenya Industrial Research Development Institute (KIRDI). That is why I decided to make KIRDI my next stop.  

Do you know that Google lady who usually issues directions in her part-robotic, part human voice? She helped me to find the KIRDI offices on a Friday afternoon.

Dr. Martha Induli, a senior KIRDI researcher and official ushered me warmly into her office. She instantly showered me with her bright smile and engaging conversation. Her afro hair sat on her head like a black and bright crown. As she spoke about KIRDI, microbes, research and science as a whole, her rasping voice left me nodding along.

“KIRDI has done a lot on industrial enzymes and biopesticides which are actually key for this project.  Our role there has been mainly pilot upscaling. That's our niche area which many institutions do not have.”

Industrial enzymes. Biopesticides. These are words that had never occupied any space in the real estate of my mind. But that was about to change as I listened to Martha.

“When you are testing enzymes, you must find where they are viable. What they can do. You could find some enzymes that are dehairing, removing hair, some that are removing grease. Enzymes can multi-task. When you select them from microbes, you must find which area they can do an industrial activity then you optimize on that. The facilities are there for testing enzymes.”

I nodded vigorously, as if afraid that not doing so would block the enzyme revelations from sinking into my mind.

Enzymes are powerful. So powerful that they run the world. You see that detergent that washes your clothes clean? Enzymes make that possible. When you drag yourself to the kitchen sink to wash dishes before you hit the pillows, chances are that you are able to wash those greasy dishes real clean, real fast, because the dishwashing soap is laced with enzymes. That faded jeans that you love wearing every Saturday also owes its fades to enzymes. When you have a crazy cold and dash to the pharmacist for some drugs, you should whisper a quick ‘asante sana!’ to enzymes because they are playing an increasingly important role in the manufacture of drugs. As if that’s not enough, the pesticide that you sprayed on your crops to annihilate some stubborn pests couldn’t have made it into your knapsack sprayer if enzymes hadn’t enabled its manufacture. Do you now see how the fingerprints of enzymes are all over the place on all manner of products? They definitely run the world these enzymes. But its not just about running the world; its about how you run it. Enzymes mostly run it in a green and sustainable way. Unlike crazy chemicals, they are biodegradable, which means that they don’t mess the environment.

Whoever owns the enzymes smiles all the way to the bank. So, the big question is, who is making money from the all-over-the-place power of enzymes? Well, Procter & Gamble and the biotechnology firm Genecor International made a fortune from enzymes that were mined from Lake Bogoria’s microbes. The biotech firm sold enzymes it had developed from Lake Bogoria’s microbes to Procter & Gamble. With these enzymes safely tucked away in its labs, Procter & Gamble burnt the midnight oil and developed a highly successful line of Tide bleach that it used to stonewash denim. Consequently, Procter & Gamble made millions of dollars, none of which benefited the Endorois Community. They may have done so legally but not necessarily ethically.

When William Procter and James Gamble established Procter & Gamble in 1837, the Endorois had already been living around Lake Bogoria as an organized community for more than one hundred years. The enzymes that would later make millions of dollars for Procter and Gamble were already inhabiting the microbes in the lake. But at the time, there was no Genencor International or other biotech firms to pore and poke the lake’s enzymes in search of commercially viable enzymes.

Almost 200 years later, as of 2017, Procter & Gamble was worth $228.1 Billion. For fiscal year 2017, Procter & Gamble’s net sales were $65.1 billion (Kenya Shillings 6.6 Trillion). To put that staggering revenue into perspective, Kenya Government’s 2017-2018 budget was Ksh 2.29 trillion, almost three times less than Procter & Gamble’s revenue that year. For even more perspective, Kenya Government sought to raise Ksh 1.7 trillion in that fiscal year. Even if the country managed to raise this entire amount, which is rarely the case, Procter & Gamble’s revenue would still be almost four times the revenue of Kenya’s Government.

Please pause for a while and read the above paragraph again so that this astounding fact can sink in – In 2017, Procter & Gamble’s revenue was four time more than Kenya’s expected revenue for the fiscal year 2017 – 2018.   

Isn’t it therefore only fair that a company that is richer than the Kenya Government should pay some royalties for Lake Bogoria’s enzymes? After all, these enzymes contributed some percentage to its staggering revenue. It could be (it probably is) that Procter and Gamble has not broken any law whatsoever and has legally not ripped of the good people of Baringo County where Lake Bogoria is situated. But doesn’t the spirit of the law of humanity (ethics) dictate that Lake Bogoria’s communities should get a share of the royalties? Am not talking about PR fueled money to build a new hospital wing here and paint a classroom there. Rather, am talking about actual dinero, cash that is channeled to the communities not as a favour, a mere act of compassion but as a right because that money is due to them.

The money is due to them not just because of the spirit of the law of humanity but mainly because of the international law as is clearly stipulated in the Convention of Biological Biodiversity (CBD) and the Nagoya Protocol that stemmed from this convention.

The CBD clearly states that, “To be ‘fair and equitable’, benefit-sharing should reflect the efforts of national authorities and of stakeholders such as communities, institutions and companies in making the genetic resource available (through conserving, allowing access to, providing information on, and collecting it) and using it (conducting research and development, etc.).”

The Nagoya Protocol further reinforces this when it states in Article 5 that, ‘benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources that are held by indigenous and local communities, in accordance with domestic legislation regarding the established rights of these indigenous and local communities over these genetic resources, are shared in a fair and equitable way with the communities concerned, based on mutually agreed terms.’

Exactly! Let me translate the above paragraphs to you into simple English, “communities, institutions and companies should share the money that is made from the commercial utilization of genetic resources.”

The formula that such sharing will operate from may be debatable but what is indisputable is the fact that benefit sharing must be ‘fair and equitable’ amongst all parties. That’s the law. But am afraid am going to have to spoil the party here. Although the CBD was adopted 26 years ago in in 1992 when google was not even born, USA has not yet ratified the agreement! All the UN States have ratified this vital agreement – Iran, Libya, Cape Verde, Somalia – all of them except the United States of America. This means that international law may not necessarily shield the Endorois Community from the powerful corporate arrows of companies like Procter & Gamble.

What then can shield the Endorois from exploitation? I decided to search for an answer to this question from the Endorois leaders themselves.

One morning just after 6AM, I jumped into the shower then into The Growler, my trusted Subaru Forrester. I turned on the ignition key and it growled into life prompting a smile onto my face. That engine growl was so divine that I wished Beethoven was still alive to compose a symphony known as ‘The Growler Symphonica.’

Less than two hours later, The Growler deposited me at the deserted Parking Lot of a three-star hotel that sits quietly a few hundred metres from the Naivasha junction along Nairobi – Nakuru Highway. I matched past the hotel’s lobby into an adjacent restaurant then chose a corner table. I was there to meet Wilson Kipkazi, the Endorois Welfare Council Chairman and Kenneth Ole Nasho, a Kenya Wildlife Service Game Warden.

The Endorois community made history in 2003 when they took a case before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to demand that the Kenyan government recognises the rights of the Endorois to Lake Bogoria. Although they had lived in land adjacent to the lake for over 300 years, the Kenyan Government evicted them from there in the 1970s. Seven years after they had lodged their case through the Centre for Minority Rights Development and Minority Rights Group International, the Endorois won their landmark case. But in subsequent years, the initial ululation was followed by groans of despair since the Kenya Government didn’t take any steps to restore Lake Bogoria’s land to the Endorois. Since I was aware of all this unfortunate drama surrounding Endorois land, I was eager to meet Wilson Kipkazi and learn more about their land even as I asked him how the Endorois could be shielded from exploitation.

A few minutes after I took my seat and ordered for black coffee (I was trying to reduce my intake of calories after the weighing scale informed me solemnly that I was back to 89 kilos from the 79kilos I had memorably attained one year earlier), two gentlemen walked in and squinted as they scanned the restaurant. I raised my hand and eye brows, guessing that they were looking for me. Sure enough, it was Wilson Kipkazi the Endorois leader and Kenneth ole Nasho, former Game Warden of Baringo County where Lake Bogoria is situated.

After they joined me at my table, the Endorois Welfare Council Chairman didn’t waste any time on small talk but instantly launched into his grievances with those who exploit his beloved Lake Bogoria.

“The companies that came first to do the research never informed the community. Later on, we learnt through the media that multinational companies had made millions of dollars through genetic resources extracted from Lake Bogoria. This really made the community furious. Fortunately, some companies, a good example is Novozymes from Denmark, decided to talk to the community and pay back some royalties. When these royalties were paid back to the community, it was not much money, but the amount changed lives of the people because this money was used to educate about 246 children in a year.”

My black coffee remained untouched as Mr. Kipkazi spoke. Since he was as old as my father, I couldn’t refer to him as Wilson, even in the privacy of my mind.

Mange tak Novozyme, I silently thanked the Danish company. Fifteen years earlier, Gitte Nielsen, a 20-year-old Danish girl who resembled sunrise had taught me how to say, ‘thank you very much’ in Danish.

“I love you,” I had told her.

As a pink blush spread across her rosy cheeks, I had added with a cheeky smile, “how do you say I love you in Danish.”

Jeg elsker dig.” (Pronounced ya elska dai).

These memories stormed my mind even as Mr. Kipkazi continued to explain, “Lake Bogoria is like an umbilical cord for the Endorois community. Lake Bogoria is a sacred site for us from time immemorial. We have a lot of attachment to it in terms of sacred sites, for traditional functions including some of the functions that bonds to together the community.”

When he mentioned the words, ‘sacred site’ my mind instantly took a leap to All Saints Cathedral, my Church. I occasionally visit it during weekdays for some quiet time of reflection and prayer. Whenever am there during these times, the old grand architecture of the Church, together with the massive high ceilings and serene atmosphere normally combine forces to paint the mood with a sacred stroke that nudges the divine a bit closer to the heartbeat.

For ages, Lake Bogoria has nudged the Endorois closer to God in similar fashion. As they feasted on the Lake’s unseen spiritual benefits, they couldn’t have known that the lake was also teeming with other invisible benefits of a different kind. The invisible benefits that bring visible wealth to biotech companies plus the corporates that hold their hands and sign their cheques.

But enough about those western corporates and biotech firms. As my great, great grandfather Walid Musula used to say, ‘when there is dust on your mwiko (wooden cooking stick), don’t blame the wind – wipe away the dust then cover the mwiko with a wide banana leaf that will keep away the dust.’

We, as Kenyans and Africans by extension must keep our visible and invisible treasures covered – protected not just by legislation but also steadfast execution of that legislation. Additionally, we must know the extent of the treasure that we have. This knowledge must extend beyond the university corridors of knowledge into dusty pathways of local communities like the Endorois.  

But in case the wind deposits dust on the mwiko, as has happened with Lake Bogoria’s microbes, then we must ultimately stop blaming the wind and wipe away the dust. In Lake Bogoria’s case, we can wipe away the dust by doing what Wilson Kipkazi the Endorois Community Chairman told me in that restaurant’s corner table.

Just before we completed our conversation, he looked at me intently and said with conviction, “Our community still practices traditional way of life. We still use the traditional medicine, as opposed to conventional medicine. It has been passed from generation to generation, the knowledge that we have within the community on plants, animals, even the soil and many other things. This is knowledge that we still use it. We embrace traditional knowledge.”

I nodded slowly. There was still coffee in my cup but it had since turned lukewarm after I abandoned it. What Wilson Kipkazi was saying was too powerful to be interrupted by coffee. For the centuries that they had been living at Lake Bogoria, they had amassed a mountain of knowledge that was often treated as irrelevant by our contemporary society. We need to respect their indigenous knowledge and treat them as the age-old custodians of Lake Bogoria and everything within it. In addition, we should go a step further and do what Kenneth Nasho, the Kenya Wildlife Service warden told me just after Mr. Kipkazi had finished speaking.

In one of the open forums that he held with the Endorois Community during his time as warden in charge of Lake Bogoria, they had told shared with him a powerful insight, “they told me that they really needed to have their own local scientists.”

I took a deep breath and rubbed my hands together as I was wont to do when I was excited. 

As the rest of us were busy crying foul (as we definitely should), the Endorois community had already dusted themselves and cast an eye into the future. They were eager for a future where it wouldn’t take a scientist from Leicester University to mine microorganisms from their lake; a future where it wouldn’t take a mzungu (white people) biotech firm to dissect those microbes and discover highly profitable enzymes; a future where it wouldn’t take yet another mzungu company to use those enzymes to develop a highly profitable product worth billions.

Indeed, the Endorois community want a future where they will have their very own home-grown scientists whose contemporary scientific knowledge will fuse with the Endorois indigenous knowledge to create a priceless knowledge base that will lead to sustainable revenues that will change their lives for generations.  

That future can begin as soon as tomorrow. Even as those homegrown Endorois scientists come to fruition, there are already established Kenyan scientists like Professor Mulaa from Nairobi University and Dr. Martha Induli from the Kenya Industrial Research Development Institute (KIRDI). In the same vein, there are experts like Kavaka Mukonyi from the Kenya Wildlife Service. These people with immense experience and knowledge to turn microbes into million-dollar products.

The only missing link is those papers that have Jomo Kenyatta or Abraham Lincoln on them – money. It will take millions of dollars to transform microbes into billion-dollar products.

As I waded slowly from the weak-coffee colored waters of Lake Bogoria, I finally understood why the African Spoonbill bird had been gazing deep into the waters of Lake Bogoria. Its eyes must have been feasting on the priceless treasures that lived in the Lake.

Its up to us here in Kenya and Africa to mine those treasures in a sustainable way.

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[1] https://www.cbd.int/abs/about/#objective

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DJ Bwakali

DJ Bwakali

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