Biogas fuelling energy revolution in rural Kenya

Mr. Frankinson Maina (R) at his model farm in Kilimabogo near Thika (Kenya)

Globally, it is estimated that more than two and a half billion people lack access to clean and safe cooking fuel. Africa’s population alone accounts for almost half of that figure according to data from Hivos East Africa.

Many households in Kenya rely on traditional sources of cooking fuel such as wood, charcoal and dried manure among others. Sadly, the use of traditional biomass as fuel for cooking present health hazards to many African families. Further statistics indicate that these fuels kill many people and make many more sick. Such unsustainable collection of tradition fuels is further exhausting natural resources, damaging the environment and contributing to climate change.

Waste feeding trough

To help address the energy access challenges in Kenya, Hivos East Africa is working with partners under the Africa Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPP) to provide alternative sources of energy especial for rural dwellers.

The programme aims to provide access-to-energy services through the installation of biogas digesters in partnership with local artisans and enterprises.

Our team visited Mr. Frankinson Maina at his model farm in Kilimabogo near Thika (Kenya) to learn the story of a farmer who has benefitted by using biogas digesters with the help of ABPP.

Mr. Maina learned about biogas from a colleague in 2014.

He was often bothered by frequent power shortages at his home and the unsustainable electricity supply.

“My colleague had endless supply of cooking gas from his digester and was saving a lot of money in fuel consumption,” says Mr. Maina.

He felt in love with the idea and couldn’t wait to acquire a biogas digester.

Gas control meter

He was referred to ABPP which helped him to set a biogas digester at his home.

“It was very affordable to set it up as I used readily available resources together with help from an ABPP artisan,” he recalls.

Since Mr. Maina started using biogas digester, he has never looked back. “It has helped me in a number of ways I couldn’t envision before. It is very reliable and I have never run out of gas for three years now.”

He adds, “It has also helped me cut down cost on expensive electricity. My wife no longer wastes time sourcing for firewood or charcoal since the biogas is readily available.”

He also uses the bio-slurry (an organic fertilizer) in his farm which has improved soil fertility and boosted agricultural production.

According to Mr. Timothy Mwangi  of Kenya Biogas Program  attached to ABPP, the use of traditional biomass as fuel for cooking and reliance on expensive diesel powered machines has been the norm in Africa. But this is set to change with the help of ABPP as it empowers Kenyans with alternative sources of energy.

Biogas gas powered burner

“The use of biogas alone can meet several SDGs like eradicating poverty, hunger, achieve gender equality, affordable and clean energy ,” he says adding that, “It will tremendously improve the living conditions of many African households. In particular, women and children will improve their health as cooking on biogas is clean and smokeless.The collection and use of biomass fuel, mostly firewood, will be eliminated hence reducing environmental destruction and creating time for other economic activities. Women and young girls will also avoid unnecessary risks associated with sourcing for firewood especially in rural areas.