Due to the Covid-19 induced lockdown, the past months have been difficult for our biogas project in Kiambu county, Kenya, but it is now in full swing again. Since the end of the lockdown, 20 biogas plants have been built already and there are other interested smallholder families who also want to produce their own clean energy for cooking with the manure of their cows. This is also due to a new project which our partner in Kenya, Sustainable Energy Strategies Ltd. ( SES), has started. The managing director David Karanja reports:
“In the beginning of September, we started a demonstration model in Kiambu (Kenya) on the value of biogas slurry as an organic fertilizer. A series of workshops will promote sustainable farming practices and show how utilization of bio slurry can create an additional income for households owning a biogas unit: The produce shall be sold in the local supermarkets, serving the demand for organic food. In the demonstration, we engaged an agronomist that trains several households in Limuru and our own stuff on the process of growing fruits and green vegetables using biogas slurry. The workshop includes all steps from preparation of beddings and planting up to harvesting. The video shows the beginning of the process: How the participants prepare the field, apply the biogas slurry to the beddings and cultivate and plant seedlings under the guidance of the agronomist.
Slurry is a by-product from anaerobic digestion of cow dung in our Deenbandhu biogas units, which is released after 40 days. But it is no waste product but in fact a supreme organic fertilizer. Biogas slurry amends the soil. Fruits and vegetables grown with biogas slurry acquire better taste and texture, are bigger and have a longer shelf life. The cost of produce grown with slurry is by as much as 60% lower than produce grown with chemical fertilizers. Slurry also helps the crops to attain maturity and reproduce faster, reducing the harvesting time which further cuts on the cost of production. Additionally, the food produced has organic quality and it is free of pesticides. The farmers in our project will therefore be offering superior produce to any other in the market at a reasonable price. The proceeds will improve their livelihoods, particularly that of rural women and youth.
In Nairobi, supermarkets do not sell organic produce so far. The fruit and vegetables grown with bioslurry from our biogas units are therefore bound to meet a very high demand among the middle and upper segments of the urban population.
We expect the demonstration model to attract new households which do not own a biogas unit so far and convince them of the many advantages of biogas, thus accelerating the uptake of our biogas model. Most of the households in the project location own cows but many have not installed a biogas unit as it comes with a considerable investment. The additional income generated from the biogas slurry means that the costs of biogas units will be amortized faster. So far, the workshop series has been met with great enthusiasm also from households who are not yet using biogas.
Once the demonstration phase is successfully completed, the bioslurry application might be piloted to reach a larger number of households.”