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BIOGAS BECKONS FOR

KENYAS RURAL COMMUNITIES


By Angela Wairimu Ouma, Kenya

Cooking with Biogas.


Photo by Takamoto Biogas

44

Ecoforum Journal
September/October 14

Biogas is often the lesser known


sibling in the renewable energy
family, especially in Africa. Even in
rural Africa, solar panels seem to be
more common than full-fledged
biogas. Cost plays a role in this biogas
predicament.
In Africa reliable biogas installation
requires an initial investment of
between US$1,137 - US$2,500 which
is more than millions of Africans make
in a year. Most rural Africans who
rear livestock have the raw material
needed for biogas. What they dont
have are the initial funds to set up
biogas in their homes. In addition to
this initial cost, the system, as with all
systems requires constant updating,
maintenance and repair.
This is where PAYG (Pay-As-You-Go)
biogas enters into the equation. It is
similar to buying a prepaid telephone
card. Takamoto Biogas is a
sustainability company that is
assisting Kenyan farmers to install
biogas through their Pay-As-You-Go
scheme. This firm foots the entire bill
for the initial biogas installation.
Thereafter, users pay regularly via
their mobile phones.

Think of all the infrastructure that is


needed to ensure that you have
electricity in your home. The
electricity poles, underground cables,
the meter box and the transformer.
Imagine if you had to pay for the
entire installation each time you
moved into a new house. What is of
value to you is the electricity itself, yet
you cannot access it without the
electricity infrastructure, including the
grid itself. The Electricity provider
understands this, therefore, they lay
the infrastructure for you and provide
you with power from the source to
your house.
So why is it different for biogas? Why
do potential users have to contend
with a high initial capital to have a
biogas system installed?
Takamoto has taken away the burden
of costly initial installation from the
biogas consumer. Included in the
biogas infrastructure that it sets up is
a smart meter that relays a variety of
information to the Takamoto
Headquarters. This information
includes: when the methane levels are
low and the farmers needs to add
more manure or when credits are low

and the user needs to top up.


Complete piping is done to cater for
cooking, hot showers, brooding
chicken and lighting. The customer
then pays for the biogas, which is
what is of value to them, via mobile
phone using mobile money.
For two years now, Takamoto Biogas
has proved this concept with rural folk
from central Kenya by installing the
biogas systems in their homes. With
the PAYG system, the initial cost to
the farmer is over ten times cheaper
at US$114. Unlike the traditional
method that took a month to install,
the PAYG system is installed in a day
and up and running in a week.
Takamoto Biogas works with small
farmers who have at least two cows
because dung is a good source of
methane. The system also has an
outlet that produces a bio-fertilizer
which, unlike fresh dung, does not
burn the crop. Farmers who have this
Biogas system installed do not have a
problem continuously feeding the
system since the undergo training
about what they need to do so as to
ensure a continuous flow of the
biogas.

Putting a digester into ground.


Photo by Takamoto Biogas

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Ecoforum Journal
September/October 14

Biogas system full of gas.


Photo by Takamoto Biogas

Takamoto Biogas estimates that it


saves 1,272 trees per year with the
106 installations done so far. Further
to this, the impact and value to the
farmers, especially women, has been
immense. It is an affordable, clean,
time saving and an empowering
alternative to traditional forms which
include firewood and charcoal.
This smart meter PAYG biogas
system can be replicated elsewhere
in Africa as an effective alternative
to LPG gas. Another biogas initiative
is the Africa Biogas Partnership
Programme which operates in
Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda,
and Burkina Faso. Its in the process
of building 100,000 biogas plants
that will provide approximately half a
million people access to a clean
energy by the year 2017.
With efforts like these from both the
private sector and civil society,
biogas in Africa is bound to move
from a trickle to a torrent in the
coming decade. However, an
enabling policy framework must be
put in place by governments. Well
thought out feed-in-tariffs with
competitive pricing are great
examples of such policies.
Biogas Meter,

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Ecoforum Journal
September/October 14

Photo by Takamoto Biogas