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Biogas project cuts cost of gas to farmers

By Mugucia Rugene
Flesia Wangechi Kinyua on her farm near Kerugoya town where she has invested in biogas digester for cooking and lighting her home.

 

With only two cows, Flesia Wangechi Kinyua, a farmer who installed a biogas digester three years ago is saving more than Sh30,000 a year spent on buying cooking gas and firewood.

Use of firewood meant cutting down more trees, inhaling the smoke that also dirties the kitchen with soot. Wangechi says the initial cost may have been high but she does not regret making that decision of moving to clean and nearly cost-free energy.

“I spent Sh70,000 to install the biogas digester in early 2016 and sealed the monthly hole where I was dumping money,” says Wangechi.

She says it is even more of an investment considering that cows not only give her milk for household use but also more that she sells to the local cooperative for, which gives her a monthly income.

“It is a full cycle in terms of maximum utilization of my dairy cows,” she says. One 17-liter bucket of cow dung generates cooking gas that supports three meals a day for her family as well as other needs that require fire. The digester is no longer fed on cow dung alone but also other organic waste like food waste and weed from the farm.

She says when she developed the interest of coming up with the digester, there was minimal assistance from the government and only private entrepreneurs were at hand to help her accomplish her dream. The situation has since changed and many other farmers have developed the biogas digesters with the support from the government.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Germany Technical Cooperation (GTZ) has been supporting individual farmers to construct simple biogas projects in rural Kirinyaga County. Thomas Kinyua is one of the lucky small scale farmers to benefit from the renewable energy project that has changed life for the better.

On his one and a half-acre farm at Githioro Village in Kirinyaga Central Sub County, he has three dairy cows that are properly housed which probably made him an ideal candidate for the project.

Jane Wairimu Mbeu, a beneficiary, explains how the biogas project has changed their lives. “Before the idea of producing biogas was sold to us by the Ministry of Agriculture, we used to take the cow dung to the shamba where it was used as manure,” she says.

Mbeu is not aware of how much destruction the decomposing dung was doing to the environment as it released tones of methane gas.

German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ) through the Ministry of Agriculture proposed to construct the biogas digester that would not only tap the methane but produce cheap energy for the home. The total the project cost was Sh70,000 with the GTZ contributing about 25 percent of the amount while family paid the rest of the money.

Once the dung is collected from the cowshed, it is carried with wheelbarrows to the first tank where it is mixed with one part of water and stirred. The digester has a capacity of 18 cubic meters and its walls are enforced by bricks and cement to ensure it is airtight.

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