Circular Bioeconomy for the Kenyan Dairy Sector

Project summary

The idea of circular bioeconomy (CBE) is gaining broad interest as global environmental challenges become monumental and demand a shift from linear production-consumption models to circular models. CBE is particularly relevant for lower-middle income countries (LMICs) because the increasing demand for bio-feedstock creates opportunities to diversify agricultural-based economies while delivering on several SDGs.

There is a rich academic literature on CBE in industrialised countries, but little research has been done in LMICs. This project fills this knowledge gap by studying the application of the circular economy (CE) principles, i.e., prevention, reuse, recycling, recovery and disposal, in the growing and modernizing dairy industry in Kenya. We analyse the causal properties of dairies, and the systems they are part of, in order to explore the possibilities for applying CE principles to dairy sidestreams such as whey and discarded milk.

The project objectives are: i) to produce an integrated and comprehensive understanding of CBE potential and dynamics in LMICs with a focus on milk-processing; ii) to create a foundation of bioeconomic knowledge on which Kenyan dairy-industry stakeholders can act in applying biocircular principles to facilitate sustainable growth pathways; iii) to increase the capacity to conduct research on CBE in LMICs. We take a transdisciplinary approach, drawing on the social, natural and technical sciences and integrating practitioner perspectives. The novelty consists of an integrated and comprehensive analysis of food processors’ conditions for experimenting with and developing new sidestream valorisation solutions.

The project will contribute to the knowledge, technologies, business models, and regulations needed to develop a dairy CBE in Kenya. This should stimulate innovation, attract investments, and create new partnerships to enhance dairy sidestream valorisation and address SDGs.


Midterm report
A project kick-off workshop was held in Nairobi 14-15 June 2022, hosted by ACTS, followed by field trips to dairy processors in and around Nairobi and Nakuru and visit to Egerton University. Partnership agreements were finalised in September 2022 and funds transferred to partners in October 2022. A communication strategy and project website were established. The main scientific activities from the kick-off meeting up to June 2023 have been:
- A comprehensive baseline survey targeting all dairies in Kenya, based on in-person interviews using a questionnaire. The survey will cover baseline data needs for WP1 and WP2 and partly WP3.

- Collection of whey samples from dairies. The samples will be analysed with a view to the assessment of the relevance of whey as an ingredient in animal feed, as part of a MSc project of Egerton University.

- Interviews with dairy experts and key stakeholders in Kenya.

- Commencement of a literature review on circular bioeconomy in dairy processing.

To participate in the field work and meet with partners and stakeholders, Danish participants from RUC have visited Kenya twice since the kick-off meeting: 29 October - 12 November 2022, and 8-15 May 2023. In January 2023, Danish university partners from RUC and DTU Food visited the team from Arla Foods Ingredients, who hosted a half-day workshop to discuss and identify whey valorisation opportunities.

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