Kiambu farmers reap handsomely from bio-digesters

biodigesterAt the corner of a well furnished farm house in Kinale, Kiambu County, 51-year-old, Susan Wanjiru comfortably sits caressing her grandson. And it is clear that all is well with Wanjiru. No doubt the farmer, a mother of two is in the moon. It is only a period of one year that she has enjoyed this life and looking to a brighter future. At her disposal following this clean energy project, is access to a clean, safe, sustainable and affordable source of home-made energy.

In one year, Wanjiru who lives at the edge of an exotic forest near the Nairobi-Nakuru Highway, remembers what she used to go through before a regional biogas programme came knocking. “I endlessly fought with forest officers in this area, simply because of the need for firewood fuel. I occasionally got arrested, but that is in the past now,” Wanjiru told Development Agenda with a face full of smile. She also attested of a reduction of smoke related diseases.

“For the last one year, I have not coughed,” she said. Every time she finally put a meal on the table for the family using firewood fuel, she lost two hours. But now that is a different story. “This is a wonderful project. It saves time when cooking. You only need a few minutes and you have a meal ready. Now even my neighbours want the same to be done in their homes,” said Wanjiru. Her husband, 72-year-old, Simon Mwangi Githuri confirms Wanjiru’s testimony.

“In the past my wife used to run into problems with forest officers for collecting firewood in the forest. But now we have forgotten those predicaments,” noted Githuri. He vividly remembers how one year ago in a seminar hosted by the government, a local non-governmental organisation and Dutch government based organisations under the Kenya National Domestic Biogas Programme (KENDBIP)—where a number of his family’s fuel, agricultural production and lighting problems received a huge boost.

At the seminar they were informed of a Sh25, 000 subsidy and offered an opportunity to take up the biogas project. “The following day I called and they responded. The result of their response is what you are seeing here today,” he said pointing to a bio-digester where he produces the gas used in his homestead. The farmer said, his willingness to pay the Sh25,000 subsidy to have the project started in his home, has seen him use the slurry—a by-product of the produced gas.

“The end result of this, I save Sh50,000 annually per bag of fertiliser. I buy about 10 bags of 50kg of fertiliser per year for my farming activities here,” he said when Development Agenda visited his farm. He is waiting to bank between Sh7, 200 and Sh12, 000 next week from the sale of around six to 10 bags of the 90kg bag of kales (sukumawiki). One 90kg bag goes for Sh1, 200.

Early this month Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Lilianne Ploumen led a trade delegation to Githuri’s home as part of her visit to Kenya, where she commissioned the 10, 000 biogas digester. “Minister Ploumen’s visit of Susan and Simon Githuri’s farm today marks a significant milestone for the Africa Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPP),” George Nyamu, KENDBIP’s Programme Manager said.

The programme coverage is national; under phased progression managed through Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers (KENFAP) regional offices and KENDBIP programme office. Since the programme started a year ago, 10,000 biogas digesters have been built surpassing a target of 8,000 that were earmarked for one year. As a result, this project has witnessed 50,000 lives improved in Kenya alone.

“By the end of October 2013, ABPP will have constructed 35,000 biodigesters and provided some 175,000 people access to a clean, safe, sustainable, and affordable source of energy across the five countries in which the partnership works,” added Nyamu. Hivos, an international development organisation, with a ‘people unlimited’ slogan jointly with SNV Netherlands Development Organisation are starting and implementing clean energy projects in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Burkina Faso.

The aim of these projects is to improve living conditions of households in these five countries. Nyamu says people in the project targetted areas only need to plan a project; write a proposal and KENDBIP help them implement an activity. According to Ploumen, who toured the farm and witnessed first-hand the benefit biogas brings to a rural family the biogas programme is an excellent example of the latest vision on international cooperation, as it combines investment, trade, and to a smaller extent grants, enabling improved standard of living for 175,000 people in Africa, including 50,000 Kenyans.” 

The people



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