Turning cow manure into fuel in Kenya

New biogas units will save time and money

By Ken Mellish

Farmers Helping Farmers has recently installed fifteen demonstration biogas units at selected members of our Meru County, Kenya dairy clubs. 

As you can see in the photos, these are a heavy-duty plastic tube with a gas bag on top, and plumbing, to allow for the adding of biomass and the removal of methane and compost. These units will use cow manure as fuel.

Xaser Bunfi and wife near their Biogas digester.

When the unit is operational, the farmer will dump in two 20-litre buckets a day of a mix of half cow manure and half water. The same amount of composted material will go out the other end of the unit, and we are told will produce enough methane gas  for six hours of cooking per day. The weight of small sand bags placed on the top of the gas collection bag will force the gas to the cooker. 

Fridah Gacheri and her husband with their complete unit

 FHF had supplied  biogas units previously  at the Wakulima Dairy. These units were assembled from a number of components and built on site. These new units were purchased complete, with the supplier assembling the gas generator tube and supplying the gas ring for cooking. 

Xavier Bundi, his wife salome and their grand children

The advantages of these units it that the family no longer has to find wood, or buy gas for cooking. There is some labour involved, but far less that acquiring wood. There is the initial cost of the unit, but no daily fuel cost. As these were demonstration units, FHF paid the cost of approximately $1,200 CND per unit. FHF also supplied a water storage tank, as our past experience told us that an interrupted water supply would reduce gas production. 

The composted material produced by this unit is superior to fresh manure as fertilizer, as the bacterial fermentation incorporates the nutrients from the manure, and makes them more evenly available to plants. This process makes this compost an ideal fertilizer for Napier grass or vegetables. 

Flida Gacheri from the Nchoro dairy club reported "she was very pleased to have the biogas and was looking forward to making porridge quickly for her children before school”.  

The initial feedback from the women using this method of cooking has been very positive, and should free up valuable time and money that they would use in the past getting fuel.

Esther Muguna with her burner

These units were funded by Global Affairs Canada as part of the More Food, Better Food : Empowering Kenyan Women Farmers project.

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