Kenya aims to expand electricity generation from manure

Apr 29, 2013 12:00 AM

The Kenya National Domestic Biogas Programme (KENDBIP) is working to expand the use of manure created by Kenya's vibrant livestock industry to generate electricity for domestic and industrial use, especially for citizens not connected to the national grid.

"The country has enormous potential to exploit manure to generate electricity and cooking gas, thereby curbing deforestation," KENDBIP co-ordinator George Nyamu told Sabahi. "Biogas technology will also mitigate climate change because it does not produce greenhouse gas emissions."

KENDBIP, a unit within the Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers, has trained more than 200 masons to install bio-digesters that use bacteria to create and harness methane gas for cooking. Biogas can replace wood, gas or kerosene.

So far, KENDBIP has built about 8,000 bio-digesters across the country, and aims to have 11,000 by 2014, Nyamu said.

Expanding the use of biogas can mitigate frequent rural power outages and cut production costs, he said. Banks have also been embracing this renewable energy with about ten financial institutions offering loans for biogas projects, he said.

Nyamu said 30,000 gallons of manure can produce more than 5,000 kilowatt-hours per day. In a country where the average home uses 650 kilowatt-hours per month, the energy produced can light an entire neighbourhood with energy left over for industry.

Setting up a plant for a small farm costs about 100,000 shillings ($1,200) while a plant for a large farm can cost ten times as much.

Foreign and local firms have been negotiating with the new county governments elected in March to partner in biogas lighting projects, said Laikipia County Governor Joshua Irungu.

"We have been regaled in stories of countries like Germany and Argentina generating electricity from animal and human waste and we are exploring that route," Irungu told Sabahi, adding that seven delegations of investors have approached him and deals will be struck soon.

This renewable energy source can ameliorate Kenya's energy deficiency and waste management problems, while creating fertiliser to boost food production, he said.

Mandera County Governor Ali Ibrahim Roba said his administration would sponsor about 100 people to take courses on biogas technology.

"We are incorporating environmentally friendly solutions that will also comply with tight budgetary allocations. Biogas projects help achieve that," he told Sabahi, adding that his administration is discussing deals with several firms.

Using human waste to generate electricity will help solve a waste management crisis in Wajir town, where residents use buckets as toilets, said Wajir County Governor Ahmed Abdullahi. Landfills where human waste is disposed of will be used for the project, which will help improve sanitation conditions, he said.

Friends of Conservation (FOC), a non-profit organisation in areas bordering the Masai Mara Game Reserve, has initiated biogas pilot projects in the Kolong, Maji Moto, Enkereri, Narosura, and Talek villages in Narok County through collaboration with the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife.

FOC Executive Director Haji Ogle said biogas production is fairly simple, as it only requires bio-digesters and turbines.

Harrison Bichana, a 46-year-old farmer in Kisii County, said he has used biogas for cooking for seven years.

"I have saved enormously on fuel costs and prevented smoke-related illnesses," he told Sabahi. "I am looking forward to saving bills on electricity."

Bichana said he generates biogas from his seven dairy cattle and his poultry farm, and is currently taking classes on biogas technology at Mount Kenya University.

"[Installing the lighting system] is not cheap for many people, but it is a lifetime investment that will cut electricity costs," he said. "The only obligation is to ensure that manure is available to maintain the digester."

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