Susan Wanjiru Githiri and her husband Simon are your typical small-holder Kenyan farmers. They have lived off the land for the last 30 years. Their five-acre farm is shielded from the busy main highway by verdant alpine trees. This area is fertile and beautiful. But for many years, deforestation was a major issue here, as Susan and other residents of the area relied on the forest for firewood as their primary source of fuel.
Just over a year ago, there was a drastic change in the Githiri household thanks to the installation of their biodigester (also called a biogas digester).
“We feel young again,” says a beaming Susan when asked how the biodigester has changed her life. “I don’t have chest problems anymore and I don’t have to wake up early anymore to go and fetch firewood. My health has improved immensely and I feel I a lot more relaxed.” She now uses gas for cooking that is generated from her biodigester. Her days of fetching firewood are long behind her. The old kitchen with its typical three cooking stones and walls covered in soot now acts as a storage area.
The benefits of having a biodigester on the farm for Simon and Susan are not only seen in the kitchen and their improved health, but on their farm as well. They pride themselves in being fully self-sufficient when it comes to feeding themselves. Their three cows provide the core resource (dung) for the biodigester. The slurry, a by-product of the biogas plant, is used as organic fertilizer on their farm. Being a mixture of dung and soil, it is full of nutrients rich and guarantees a rich and robust harvest. Furthermore, the slurry provides a source of income for the Githiris as they can sell the leftover slurry to neighbouring farms.
“I have forgotten about buying artificial fertilizer. My harvest has improved tremendously. I used to harvest 10 bags of kale per week and now I am harvesting 25 bags a week,” Susan says excitedly. With the bigger harvest, there has also been more income for the Githiri household.
Close to 200 biogas digesters have been installed in this area, and farmers are being encouraged to turn to biogas as a source of fuel and fertilizer. The Kinale area where Susan and Simon live has been heavily deforested over the years, forcing the government to intervene and turn to biogas as a solution to abet the destruction of the forest. The Githiris were lucky to have received an 80 percent subsidy, which they topped off with money from their own savings to get the biodigester constructed. The cost of her eight cubic metre plant comes to just under 100 euros and took about two months to construct.
The increase in uptake of biodigesters in Kenya is evidence that more farmers like Susan and Simon are seeing the benefits of biogas, which is a glowing testament for the Africa Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPP).
ABBP is a partnership between the Dutch government, Hivos and SNV Netherlands Development Organisation in support of national programmes in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Burkina Faso. Hivos acts as fund and programme manager from our regional office in Nairobi, while SNV provides capacity-developing services in the five priority countries and knowledge management at supra-national level.
Susan and Simon consider themselves fortunate: the last year has brought in ‘harvests’ in more ways than one.