Biogas energy saves trees, money and reduces greenhouse gas emissions while preventing health problems such as upper respiratory infections and eye ailments among others. However, the initial cost of installation has been a deterrent to many who are willing to switch from wood fuel to biogas. The cost of setting up a biogas digester ranges from KES 50,000 to KES 150,000, a cost that is way above what most people in the rural areas who earn less than a dollar a day can afford.
Boosting Young Entrepreneurs Foundation (BYE) a local Community Based Organization based in Muranga County partnered with Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF) to provide loans to enable communities in Muranga County to construct biogas installations. BYE realized that many people in Muranga wanted to have biogas plants as an alternative to using firewood and paraffin but only a fraction could afford, yet majority of families owned manure producing cows – a prerequisite for biogas production.
BYE’s Kigumo Green Development Project (KIGDP) was established to protect the environment from deforestation by offering families a chance to neutralize their carbon emission by building biogas installations as well as promoting the shift from firewood to sustainable biogas. The project also sought to release young girls from the household chores of collecting firewood thereby stimulating their school attendance.
A research conducted by BYE on the performance of girls versus boys showed that girls are needed at home earlier than boys to fetch firewood, water and perform other domestic chores. Most girls alluded that when they are in class in the afternoons, their minds revolve around what time they will get home to begin on their household chores; a factor that contributes to their dismal performance in school.
“We want to ensure that girls have time to study just like boys and at the same time saving the environment,” says Gerald Kinuthia, Executive Director at BYE.
Most households in Gakoeini Village in Muranga County also don’t have the luxury of being connected to the electricity grid. However, at one woman’s home, beams of light can barely be seen through the thick fog of Gakoeini village. Lydia Muthoni Kamau is one among eight farmers in her village who are running mini biogas plants to supplement their energy needs.
‘’Yes, the light you are seeing comes from the gas produced from my small biogas plant,” says Muthoni as she inches closer to the light source dangling from the ceiling of her two bedroom house.
“Cooking is now stress free as I can now cook in a smoke free kitchen in the shortest time possible. The time I would have spent looking for firewood is now used in doing other house hold chores. I am also happy because I am contributing to conserving the environment,” concludes Lydia as she stirs a mixture of cow dung and water using her bare hands.
Murang’a is often wet contributing to frequent power outages. The biogas project, has provided community members like Muthoni with alternative options of lighting up their households during these outages. The installation of Muthoni’s biogas ‘factory’ cost KES. 75,000 through a pay forward model where the money is advanced to the beneficiaries and upon completion of the project, the recipients pays a monthly installment of Sh5,000 per month within a period of 18 months. This arrangement facilitates more beneficiaries to be part of the project as the installment comes from savings accrued from not buying paraffin or firewood.
A ten-minute drive away from Lydia’s farm, Mzee David Kimani, a septuagenarian is also a beneficiary of the biogas project. Before installing the biogas plant, Kimani had been spending quite a bit of money buying Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). Every three months, he would spend close to KES 3000 (USD 34) to refill a 13kg gas cylinder. Today he considers himself unshackled from this expense.
“Bringing this project home has saved me from buying gas or using paraffin. After carefully researching on the project, I jumped on board and I have never looked back as the project has been a blessing to me and my family” Says Kimani.
When BYE CBO was introduced to the project (Pamoja4Change), they were hesitant that the matching fund approach would not get buy in from the community as most were not financially endowed. But even with such challenges, BYE’s aggressive campaigns on educating the people of Muranga on the principles of local giving as well as the benefits of biogas energy – the efforts have paid off as more and more people have now embraced the technology as testified by the number of biogas installed to date which stands at 40.
“We shared the concept in our regular meeting and we were surprised with the reaction from most of the members. Members took up the challenge and gave various suggestions on how the funds would be raised,” quips Gerald.
BYE CBO was tasked to raise Sh450,000 with KCDF matching the fund to initiate the pilot project which would act as a demonstration plot for more members to learn and take up the project. The group was able to approach tea factories in the area, held football matches as well as getting contributions from members and the set target was reached.
“The interest from members in the project has increased tremendously after the pilot and members are now coming together to support each other to construct their biogas plants and we hope to see a cleaner environment as well as improved living standard from the community,” Gerald adds.
Some of the spin offs from the biogas project is generation of organic fertilizer which reduces the need to buy commercial fertilizers which is costly for the rural folks. A 50kg of Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) retails between KES. 3,500 and KES 3700.
As the biogas project spreads in homes in Muranga County, a drive to have biogas plants installed in schools to supplement their energy needs is in the offing. Njiiri High School was chosen as a pilot project with a total project cost of KES. 368,408. And as with all Pamoja4Change Projects, BYE facilitated a funds drive to raise their match. The student community was able to raise KES 133,000 from their parents and teachers while KES 60,000 was raised from Njiiri’s Old Boy’s Association.