• Benefits of using biogas include provision of clean energy instead of firewood. This reduces deforestation and promotes forest cover.
• The slurry from the biogas is used as manure and it helps in enriching the soil, hence increase production.
With the high cost of energy pushing production cost up in the country, a farmer in Nyeri has shifted to renewable energy.
David Macharia, hopes to reduce costs and also fight the effects of climate change.
Macharia, a tea farmer from Othaya, said he has shifted to the use of biogas to run his chuff cutter used to cut Napier grass for his five dairy cows.
He is able to use the bio slurry from the biogas as manure for his crops and forage such as napier grass and this has seen stability in his milk production.
Macharia said he always wanted to install a biogas digester in his home.
He, however, could not afford it because he had other family responsibilities like paying school fees for his grandchildren.
It costs between Sh80,000 to Sh100,000 to install a biogas system inclusive of a digester, gas piping and gas cooker.
“I often shelved the idea of installing a biogas in my home until 2021 when Rainforest Alliance came knocking at my door," he said.
"I got to benefit from the biogas project because I have more than two dairy cows.”
Other than using biogas for chopping the grass, Macharia also uses it for cooking.
Before, he used to cut grass using electricity and his monthly electricity bill was about Sh1,800. This has now reduced to about Sh850.
His successful dairy farming venture, enabled him to get into pig farming last year.
Currently he has nine piglets and five sows.
Late last year, he made Sh250,000 from the sale of pork to a trader in Karatina.
“In November last year, I also sold a few piglets to some farmers in the area at Sh4,000 per piglet," he said.
"I bank the money and use it to buy dairy feeds which I supplement with the forage I grow in the farm.”
Macharia said this has helped him ensure his production is consistent.
His wife Alice Wangui said with the biogas she no longer has to cut trees to get firewood for cooking.
“I have reduced the time I used to fetch firewood and no longer have eye or respiratory problems due to smoke," she said.
"I can now cook faster. In the morning, it takes me about 15 minutes to prepare tea for breakfast. Even boiling githeri is faster."
Wangui said she no longer spends a lot of time fetching firewood because she has biogas and the raw material required is readily available.
She advises farmers who have at least two dairy cows in their farm, to plan on installing biogas in order to save on electricity.
“With the dairy animals, you only need to buckets of cow dung to make the biogas for your use," she said.
"On the other hand, you will no longer have to use fertiliser as you will have adequate manure from the slurry.”
James Muyula said they have been working in partnership with KTDA Foundation to demonstrate the optimum use of biogas within the tea landscape.
Muyula is a senior associate on Renewable Energy at the Rainforest Alliance in Kenya.
"Many tea farmers have challenges with energy because most of their land is under tea so getting firewood becomes a problem," he said.
"Besides those that have firewood and continue cutting down trees are likely to contribute to deforestation."
He said as an organisation, Rainforest Alliance wanted to address the issue of deforestation within the tea landscape.
The did this through working with lead farmers, who have been trained on sustainability, so that others can learn from them on good agricultural practices.
"Such actions can improve production or can contribute towards climate change mitigation and adaptation,” Muyula said.
The energy expert said that, so far they are working with eight tea farmers in Nyeri and Kirinyaga in the pilot project.
He said biogas saves the farmer from indoor pollution as most kitchens are small and users inhale smoke when they are using firewood.
With biogas, he said, they are able to breath in clean air hence reduce smoke-related illnesses.
Muyula said the technology seeks to reduce costs of fuel in households and ensure food and nutrition security.
According to statistics from the Kenya Biogas Programme, construction of one bio-digester can prevent deforestation of 1.08 tonnes per year.
One bio-digester can reduce an equivalent of 13.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
(Edited by Francis Wadegu)