Biogas for Nakuru Project

Ladies cooking on wood fire

The nature and biodiversity surrounding small rural communities and households in Nakuru Kenya is being destroyed by the relentless need to collect firewood for cooking. The use of traditional three-stone fires for cooking contributes to high levels of indoor air pollution, adversely affecting health particularly of the women and children. This contributes to the death of 21,500 people in Kenya each year. Children under 5 are badly affected.

The installation of Biogas Units is a proven solution. The pilot project of 8 units proved the concept and were very successful. Another 8 units were installed and last month unit number 17 was commissioned as shown in the video below. The next step is to scale the project up with a Rotary Foundation Global Grant and Biogas unit sponsors.

Latest Biogas Unit Commissioning. Unit Number 17.

This project seeks to: Save Lives by reducing respiratory illness caused from the inhalation of wood smoke, Save the Environment by restoring forests and vegetation that have suffered due to tree exploitation for timber and charcoal and capture methane, a significant global warming gas. Empower Women by liberating them from the need to spend 3-4 hours collecting and cooking with firewood. Improve the family and community wellbeing by the adoption of kitchen gardens and the planting of fruit trees.

90% of rural Kenyan households still cook with wood fires to do this firewood must be collected.

It was also noted on a recent visit that homes that had benefited from trees planted as part of a previous Rotary 6T water tanks project were now being cut down for firewood.

There are other problems that need to be considered.

The risk to women’s safety when out collecting firewood can be alleviated by removing the need to collect fire wood.

There are other safety risks in Kenya that we in Australia would not face when collecting firewood for our campfire.

We can liberate women and children from the burden of spending 3-4 hours per day hours to collect and cook with firewood by replacing traditional 3 stone wood fires with a biogas unit and cooktop. This gives women more time to allocate to education, vocational training to learn new skills. These skills can enable them to gain employment or other income-generating opportunities.

Alternative Solutions

Charcoal – It is a better fuel than wood & Burns hotter; environmentally Friendlier than Fossil Fuels; Sold in street markets. However, it costs money, produces harmful fumes, contributes to deforestation by cutting down trees to make the charcoal. Is less efficient when compared to LP gas. It does not solve the environmental problem in fact it makes it worse.
LP Gas: is a good solution but it is very expensive. Beyond reach for a lot of rural households around Nakuru – some families have more money than others and can afford to use LP Gas but for others $15.80 is a large part of their weekly income and just not affordable.
Cleaner Wood Stoves: – There are some large projects underway in Kenya to provide better wood stoves. They are better than 3 stone fires, they are cheap, use less wood, reduces some smoke but they do not solve the problem – families still need firewood and breath in the smoke.
Electricity: the best solution – Unfortunately rarely available in rural areas. Even when it is available Kenya Power said ONLY 1% of rural electricity customers use the power to cook! With most Kenyans still primarily relying on wood fuel and gas. No doubt to save expensive electricity.

Click here to see a comparison chart of all the alternatives.

Preferred Solution is Biogas

Rural families around Nakuru typically have livestock and animal dung. Cows can come to the rescue. Cow dung can easily be converted to natural gas for cooking. Other biomass and animal dung can be used but cow dung is the best.

Once operating, the Biogas unit utilizes the animal dung to produce a clean renewable fuel for cooking. The biogas by-products can be used as fertilizer for a kitchen garden or farming.

Biogas stove and filter

How Does it Work?

It is a very simple system.

  • Mix cow dung with water.
  • Feed it into the biodigester
  • Biogas will be produced by the bacteria in the digester. The bacteria are known as methanogens and grow under anaerobic conditions – Introduced by the Cow dung that contains these bacteria.
  • The gas is collected in the Gas Holding Dome, pipes feed the gas to a filter in the house to remove the Hydrogen Sulfide. The gas stove then uses the filtered gas.
  • The spent waste is pushed out of the digester to the slurry outlet by the gas pressure. The slurry is an excellent fertilizer – it does not smell.

One kilogram of cow manure mixed with water under ideal conditions can produce approximately 35–40 liters of biogas sufficient to cook a day’s meals for up to 46 people.

So Can Biogas solve the problems?

  • There is no need to cut down trees or collect firewood! Which prevents deforestation and allows the vegetation to regenerate. The environment surrounding the community is further improved by the planting of trees as part of the project.
  • Cooking on biogas is fast and smokeless, removes the serious risks of inhaling wood smoke toxins while cooking, improves family health, especially among women and children.

YES – Biogas does provide a solution – But it does so much more!

  • It provides a cheap, almost free, renewable fuel
  • Leftover slurry from the biogas process is an excellent organic fertilizer that can be used on a kitchen garden. It improves crop yields for fresh healthy food or to sell for extra income.
  • Methane emissions are captured from manure, preventing it from entering the atmosphere and increasing global warming. Over a 20-year period, methane is 80 times more potent than CO₂. 60% of human caused methane comes from food production and food waste and 40% comes from fossil fuel extraction. Even small reductions in methane emissions can have a significant impact on short-term global warming.
  • Reduce greenhouse warming and increase environmental resilience by reducing the need to replace wood fires with stoves that use kerosine, gasoline, LP gas or other fossil fuels.
  • Anaerobic digestion deactivates pathogens and parasites; So is effective in reducing the incidence of waterborne diseases.
  • Childrens burn accidents from wood and charcoal cooking fires are significantly reduced.
  • Unit # 17 just installed can also treat human waste for further improvements in the environment, sanitation, and hygiene.
  • Each of the recipients that used wood fires can now cook their meals inside their homes! Something most of us just take for granted!
  • Children now can do their homework while meals are being prepared.

The project collaborates with community self-help groups who take responsibility for their land and future. Community ownership and participation are key elements of the project to promote sustainable practices and heal the scars left by unsustainable practices. This includes the planting of the seedlings and trees to restore green cover and creating vegetable gardens using the fertilizer produced by the biogas unit.

The project will Supply and Install up to 240 Fixed Dome biogas Units to families’ homes in remote communities in the Rural areas surrounding Nakuru. This will be done in two stages of 120 units each. Community members of the 22 Rotary Community Corps and 176 Self-help groups who have participated successfully in the 6Ts project will be beneficiaries of the project. This project also includes the planting of fruit trees.

Time-tested reliability and adaptability of these fixed dome biodigesters make them a valuable asset, especially in rural and agricultural communities. The simplicity of their design makes them easy to construct and maintain. Constructed using cheap and locally available materials such as bricks or concrete. Their robust design makes them durable and long-lasting. One unique feature of these fixed dome biodigesters is the storage of biogas under pressure within the dome. This pressure storage ensures a steady supply of biogas for various applications.

Sponsor a Biogas Unit click HERE