Project Results: 

Green Keeper Africa installs transformation paths from one of the most invasive weed in the world: water hyacinth. They organize community harvesting sessions of the weed with groups of women living in the affected regions. The weed is transformed into a sorbent, called GKSORB, which is 100% organic and efficient. GKA sorbent is a solution to handle industrial waste spills. Once the fiber is soaked up with oil it enters a recycling loop using it as alternative fuel for cement industries.

The project was to bring the innovation from the concept phase to the scaling-up phase with commercial, social and environmental incomes. This objective has been reached, Green Keeper Africa has completed the go to market phase, and the product has been sold in Benin, Togo and Morocco.

Key results
The project accomplished:

  • First there was an unorganised production line with poor production capacity, high costs and permanent production failures, now there is a well-organized improved production system. The product (GKSORB) is certified (by Cèdre) and indicated as one of the best organic sorbent.
  • There is a product offer of more than 20 products in a catalogue, sale force, regional recognition of the brand, capacity to understand the opportunities of different markets. This resulted in sustained increase of sales over the last 2 years, including the expedition of a 20 ft container to Morocco and a distribution contract for Algeria signed in August 2018. 
  • In two years time, there was an organized team of 6 persons in office in Cotonou with administrative, financial, HR procedures, 9 workers with contracts, an organized team that uses AGILE derived methodology, and more then 750 seasonal workers harvesting the water hyacinth (85% women). 

Tips for the future

  • Social responsibility must be embedded in your core business strategy—not included as an “add-on.” When making decisions, always consider an action’s broader social impact. 
  • At the very beginning, take time and advice from experienced managers in order to plan your dream team, because however excellent your idea is, it will not succeed without a good team. 
  • If you are an association of people to drive the project, see a lawyer. He/she would advise you and warn you on the pitfalls of any association, how to prevent them, how to keep your project/organization alive even if the team goes mad. 
  • Only one boss at a time. From the very beginning of the project, choose wisely who is the boss; two bosses or more is easy when the project is informal, it might quickly become a burden afterwards. 
  • Do not wait for your product to be ready before starting to communicate, do it from the very beginning. Share your story! 

Potential for growth
There is certainly a market for products deriving from the water hyacinth, both in Benin as elsewhere. Investments are needed to expand to other markets and to develop new products.

Project partners
Green Keeper Africa, La France s’Engage au Sud, SENS Bénin, CELLMARK, Blue Engineering

July 2017 – July 2019


Cotonou , Benin


Benin is a country of Sub-Saharan Africa situated along the Gulf of Guinea. It extends over a surface of 112 622 km2 and is situated in the intertropical zone. Its coastal zone consists of a sea front 125 km long where half of the population lives. The river system, with more than 7 000 km of streams is completed by a lakeside system which covers 33 300 ha. In 30 years, Benin population has been multiplied by 3 to reach 9.983.884 inhabitants in 2013 and its urban population increased by fivefold during the same period. The annual rate of increase of the population is 3,5 %. Benin benefits from a stable democratic regime since 1989, the country knew five presidential ballots and five general elections which took place peacefully of whom the last one in 2016 with a new peaceful democratic transition. The gross domestic product is 8,307 billion US dollars and annual growth was of 5,6 % in 2013. The average annual income per capita was 790 USD in 2013.

Project Plan

To understand the strategy one need to see the operational process: harvesting, drying, processing, packaging, marketing. The detailed strategy is summarized in the table in Annex 1. It includes: → Harvesting activities strategy (GKA/PRO 1): - Business orientated identification of WH invasion, choice of harvesting zone depending on the season. GKA needs to develop the network of potential sites for WH harvesting. That includes their identification, sites characterization (maps, drone pictures, quantities, description of accessibility) and communities’ characterization (type of population, place of WH activities in the general activities of the communities, cost discussions, list of contacts, etc.). - Community harvesting activities development. Processes for harvesting need to be developed and improved, tools and equipment need to be available for the harvesters as well as training for improved productivity. → WH drying process (GKA/ PRO 2): - Designing and building vs buying a greenhouse able to store and dry WH. The drying process is a main step in the production process. Insufficiently dried WH result in poor storage conditions, poor milling productivity and poor product quality. - Adding a solar heat pump system in order to increase the effectiveness of the greenhouse. Being as much as possible independent from the sun exposure is important. Having a system able to increase the drying celerity of WH is important especially in seasons where days of sun can alternate with cloudy and rainy days. → Sorbent fiber production (GKA/ PRO 3): - Sorbent production phase requires milling, sieving and packaging capacities. GKA must own a robust milling system either based on multiple mobile mills of low productivity either one to two mills of high productivity. The overall system must have high “mean time between failure” and low maintenance cost. Along that mill other equipment is required in order to sieve the raw product and to package the products. - Gross sorbent fiber is not the only product that we expect to produce. Oil spill control needs pillows and socks filled with sorbent in order to manage different types of spills. GKA will then be able to offer the complete platform of products to clients. The production of those manufactured items require low cost equipment and various materials. - Storage of the production in good conditions after packaging is mandatory. We are actually working under a fragile house made of wood and corrugated roofing. A true warehouse is necessary to allow good equipment installation (dust control, power, generator, water, fire prevention, etc) and good storage conditions. b) SERVICES DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY The strategy is summarized in table 2 / Annex 1. It includes: → Cleaning and depollution services development (GKA/SERV 1): - Development of cleaning and depolluting procedures. We have experiences for the last eight months different situations of cleaning and depollution after oil contamination. The difficulties, experiences and knowledge gathered during this first approach will have to be extended in association with an industrial and hazardous waste expert (PUM). - The tools and equipment used will be reviewed and improved. - New trainings would be organized to implement the procedures. → Recycling services development (GKA/SERV 2): removing the waste is not the end of the story. We have developed the first test of incineration by cement industries that where conclusive. We know much more can be done about that and that new solutions need to be developed: - Development of recycling procedures (PUM expert). - Development of new tools/equipment, improvement of the actual depollution infrastructure (fans, drying areas, security control, automatization, etc.). - Recycling industrial waste cannot be the only concern of GKA, private companies as well as public institutions must implicated. GKA plan to act as a change maker for better handling of industrial waste in Benin. → Bioremediation development (GKA/SERV 3): - Development of the bioremediation procedures based on the experiments and tests that GKA started in April 2016. - Identification and order of tools/equipment and materials needed for bioremediation. c) LOGISTIC PLATFORM DEVELOPMENT Based on our strategies and objectives it is obvious that the management of operational flow along the different sites and the different departments of GKA will need a strong logistic management. The general GKA strategy includes the hiring of a professional logistician to handle this task.

Target group

a) Direct Beneficiaries All the staff of GKA (workers, technicians, administrators). GKA currently has 13 employees now and plans to have 29 employees by the end of the second year. GKA gives fair salaries to the employees, encourages gender submissions in all departments. GKA works constantly in improving the conditions of work and the security on its sites. - All the members of the harvesting communities are mostly women. In 2016 SENS Bénin realized a first appraisal of the type of communities concerned and their social status. This evaluation revealed that the average salary is between 15 000 and 30 000 FCA/months (e.a. 25 to 30 Euros/months). For different reasons the main activities of the families are made during the flood-recession period. During the flood period all activities are made difficult partly due to WH proliferation. It is therefore a perfect calendar for those women WH harvesting brings added revenues during a period of low incomes. The report ends saying “Harvesting WH is a real opportunity for this community”. Thirty women were working with GKA at the beginning of January. In April to July 2016, we worked with more than 200 other women in two new harvesting zones. - All the local contractors hired for different types of work (carpenters, bricklayers, welders, river transportations, etc) and all the occasional local manpower. b) INDIRECT BENEFICIARIES - The overall community that benefits from the freeing of the waterways (100 000 persons living in the So Ava Area). GKA plans to harvest almost 4000 tons of fresh WH in the fifth year of the project which represents 20 hectares of waterways restored especially in zones where local economy is the more impacted by the scourge. - The overall communities that benefits from an improved environment (fishermen). - The overall population that benefits from a lesser contaminated environment (oil contamination).


There are many applications that are possible as long as depollution is concerned: - Oil spills control (distribution of various products, services, training, procedures…); - Oil waste handling and recycling (oil separators, oil tanks, etc); - Treatment of oil contaminated soil (bioremediation). Beninese market, despite being quite small, is ideal for a pilot stage (investments made for the pilot phase will certainly work for handling the Beninese market). It seems, according to our experience, that the revenues from the contracts won in Benin will be far enough to reach profitability. The reason is that in Benin, despite the fact that there is no oil production, several oil companies are installed. We are currently working with ORYX Energies who accepts the fact that we are in a R&D phase and walk along with us developing better services. In less than 6 months we earned almost 25 000 Euros with those contracts. We are actually in the position where we cannot answer the demand from Oryx Energies due to insufficient know-how (harvesting, production, depollution services, recycling). On top of that situation there are other oil companies, even bigger than Oryx, in Benin (PUMA, Benin Petro, PrimoGaz, Sonacop) and new companies are currently settling down (OCTOGONE). To the oil company market, we have to add all the industries or enterprises concerned by oil spills (construction firms, mechanics, vegetable oil industries, breweries, shipping company, etc). With this local market we expect to follow a slow steady and robust economic growth. Green Keeper Africa is of course looking at the bigger picture. Benin is neighboring Nigeria where oil the market and general industry sector are just 100 times more frequent and more important than in Benin and where pollution threats are a lot heavier. Once the pilot will be over GKA would detain working procedures for the whole production logistic platform, depollution services and the recycling steps. It would then be possible to replicate the Beninese model into other countries and to shape its size to the dimension of the new market. With this African market we expect to follow a fast economic growth. Funding for this phase of replication could come from different sources reassured by the concrete example of the Beninese model and its profitability/sustainability: - New funding round (change of legal status of the company from “SARL” to “SA”); - New funding from the actual stakeholder of GKA (loans of stakeholder to GKA); - Bank loans and especially development bank loan.

Overview of Goals

→ Create a circular economy system starting with the Water Hyacinth (WH): – Become a main actor of pollution control services for industries in Africa introducing green methods and circular economy approach – Become a main actor in environment protection against oil pollution in Africa; – Reduce the scourge of water hyacinth invasion; – Establish the link between the researchers and the company in order to maintain a continuous innovation approach for creating new products and new technologies; – Promote a positive image of the private sector in Africa. → Introduce social responsibility as one of the main aspect of the circular economy system

Results and indicators

  • Harvesting productivity

    • Harvesting Handbook 100 ( target )
    • GKA Handbook for WH harvesting is available and has been used in one area. WH invasion indicators along with geographical (maps and photo) and social results are available on one area
    • Harvesting communities organization 2 ( target )
    • GKA has organized at least 2 trained, equipped and structured communities in different areas
    • Harvesting sessions 2 ( target )
    • GKA has organized at least 2 “community harvesting sessions”: number of beneficiaries, social impact, quantities of WH harvested, productivity
  • Production capacities
    • Local milling machine 1 ( target )
    • Local milling machine installed
    • Designing new mills 1 ( target )
    • The design of the milling machine is available (Blue Engineer)
    • Sieving machine 1 ( target )
    • The sieving machine is installed and functional in SoAva
  • The Greenhouse dryer
  • Manufactured items
  • Storage capacities
  • Eolian evaluation of the So Ava site