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The use of Biogas energy from animal waste is a sustainable source of energy to meet the domestic energy demands for cooking and lighting.



Kenya, a developing country, has an installed electricity capacity of 1800 megawatts against a demand of about 8000 megawatts. This creates a supply deficit of 6200 megawatts and as such, less than 50% of the households in Kenya are connected to electricity. Furthermore it costs approximately KShs 35,000 (EUR 318.18) to connect to the national grid and about 0.1145 EUR equivalent per kWh of electricity service. These are relatively high costs that pose a major obstacle to the expansion of electricity connections to low-income households in the rural areas, which can otherwise benefit from alternative sources of energy, such as biogas. A report published by Shell Foundation from a study conducted by ETC Group, (Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration) in Kenya in 2007 revealed that more than 80% of the households in rural Kenya use firewood fuel for cooking. Shell Foundation contracted the ETC Group to conduct a feasibility study on Biogas adoption across households in rural areas of Kenya. The study targeted households that rear livestock because much of domestic biogas in the country is produced from livestock waste. Kenya’s population grows at a rate of 3%,, this means that much demand is placed on the little forest reserve that Kenya has, (less than 2% forest cover). Rural communities that are firewood dependent are at a greater risk of energy crisis because the trees are being cut down at a faster rate than they can regenerate. Acknowledging the role trees play in the carbon sequestration process, there is eminent danger of rural communities suffering from adverse effects of climate change such as unpredictable weather patterns. This danger might combine with other challenges such as soil erosion, habitat destruction and water scarcity to culminate into an environmental problem. There is therefore an urgent need to make the rural communities resilient to these emerging environmental challenges.  


Category of the action

Mitigation/Adaptation, Changing public attitudes about climate change

What actions do you propose?

The dependence on firewood fuel for cooking by the rural residents of Vihiga County in Western Kenya poses an environmental challenge capable of aggravating the effects of climate change.  In order to make these rural communities resilient to the impending dangers of climate change, an alternative source of energy to meet the domestic needs of heating should be developed. This will see all the deforested land restored to their original forest cover so that there will be trees to play their role of carbon sequestration. Rural households can be helped to switch to biogas energy use because it is renewable, eco-friendly and affordable to them. Moreover, biogas could potentially help reduce global climate change by easing the unprecedented pressure placed on trees. This is because tree exploitation shall be at a rate that allows for the successful regeneration of the trees hence the carrying capacity of the trees is not exceeded. The country’s forest cover shall rise as a long term investment because currently Kenya’s forest cover is less than 2%, way below the 10% global recommended levels.

Microbial controlled production of biogas is an important part of the global carbon cycle. Every year, natural biodegradation of organic matter under anaerobic conditions is estimated to release 590–800 million tons of methane into the atmosphere, (Gupta, Sujata 2010). Biogas recovery systems exploit these biochemical processes to decompose various types of biomass, with the liberated biogas potentially providing an energy source. It is on this premise that a Biogas Adoption Program is proposed for creation. The program will see each household acquire an efficient biogas recovery plant to harvest cooking gas at a subsidized cost. The program should target at least 500 low-income rural households of Vihiga County in Kenya. Since the biogas plant will be harnessing methane gas from livestock waste, households with livestock, (cattle, pigs, goats or sheep or all of them) should be the ones to be given priority. Corporate organizations, government and non-governmental institutions should come on board to play a social responsibility role by funding 50% of the total cost of the entire program while the households meet the remaining 50%.  

Biogas can be used for electricity production on sewage works, in a CHP, (combined heat power) gas engine, where the waste heat from the engine is conveniently used for heating the digester; cooking; space heating; water heating; and process heating, (United Nation Foundation, 2003). If compressed, it can replace compressed natural gas for use in vehicles, where it can fuel an internal combustion engine or fuel cells and is a much more effective displacer of carbon dioxide than the normal use in on-site CHP plants. Domestic biogas plants convert livestock manure and night soil into biogas and slurry, the fermented manure. This technology is feasible for small holders with livestock producing 50 kg manure per day, an equivalent of about 6 pigs or 3 cows, (Shell Foundation, 2007). This manure has to be collectable to mix it with water and feed it into the plant. Toilets can be connected. Another precondition is the temperature that affects the fermentation process. With an optimum at 36 C° the technology especially applies for those living in a (sub) tropical climate. This makes the technology for small holders in developing countries often suitable, (Tom and Michael 2011), hence the suitability of Vihiga County in the program. Report from the feasibility study conducted by The ETC Group for The Shell Foundation indicated that most households who have 2 or more cattle under zero grazing, or 4 or more cattle under semi zero grazing are technically eligible to benefit from biogas technology.  There is technical potential for domestic biogas in at least 35 districts in Kenya, (Shell Foundation, 2007).  The highest potential areas are in Nyanza, Western, and Central provinces, with more limited scope in parts of Rift Valley and Eastern provinces.   Wood fuel scarcity, increasing energy costs and pressure for land in the high potential County of Vihiga means that the benefits of biogas are becoming more apparent to eligible households. In African countries like Kenya and Rwanda, expansion of biogas recovery systems has been based upon small-scale reactors designed for digestion of cattle, pig and poultry excreta. These are typically small systems in rural areas fed by animal manure.  

Conceptual framework

The conceptual framework takes a holistic approach on sustainable development with much emphasis on joint and collective initiative by all of us in undertaking and pursuing a development agenda. This is because of the cross-cutting nature of the issues of development and the intricate interrelations among the sectors of the economy. The integral components of the environment give a visual road map towards a development agenda. An initiative to pursue a development agenda would undergo the following steps as a cyclic process.

  1. The acknowledgement of the fact that we interact with the environment on a day to day basis compels us to develop ethical values that act as guiding principles in the formulation of policies, laws and regulations that promote sound management of the environment, (the biophysical component).
  2. A well-managed biophysical component supplies natural resources to the economy. Activities here include renewable energy use, sustainable agriculture, extraction of minerals, development of infrastructure etc. to arrive at a stable economy.
  3. A stable economy supports the environment, (able to finance projects) through research and application of technology in the restoration and or conservation of the exploited areas, clean development mechanisms as well as finding mitigation measures to other risks like climate change such that we do not lose our natural heritage.
  4. An environment that has been restored to its usefulness provides a platform over which human beings practice their cultural activities, recreation and an educational resource for the dissemination of information to the young generation.
  5. Following Abraham Maslow’s Theory on psychological health of human motivation, (1943),human beings can fulfil their innate needs in priority as arranged on a hierarchy of needs, culminating in self-actualization.  Individuals in a fair, just and equitable society would be motivated to work harder in the economy. At this stage, motivation comes from the comfortable environment (the biophysical component) that supports the cultural and social interactions as well the preceding stable economy and a secure place to live in. This kind of motivation makes individuals to transform the economy from stable into vibrant.
  6. A vibrant economy stimulates a continuous development agenda where the living standards of human beings are improved, the government is able to pay its debts and run the budget. There are increased cultural interactions, empowerment of the communities in participatory management of the environment as well as application of technology in day to day activities because of manageable inflation rates. At this stage, the social and political component orients itself towards self-actualization.

Stakeholders shall meet to deliberate on the digester designs and mechanisms through which a Biogas consultancy firm shall be contracted for consultancy services. The digester design that has been widely used can be seen at:

Application of GIS Technology

Geographic Information Systems technology can be adopted to help develop a Geodatabase that will contain the spatial distribution of the Digesters. This is critical in monitoring the progress of the project because it will aid in remote determination of the existing digesters. This can be done through getting the GPS coordinates of digesters and processing the information using suitable software such as the ArcGIS for Desktop. A map containing the actual spatial location of the digesters together with other information will be developed using the software. The map can be shared among the project proponents. The maps can be used in determination of the spatial distribution of the digesters. Aspects such as logistics, surrounding features and neighborhoods to digesters can be viewed from the maps. Digesters that have stalled can also be traced from the maps. The technology will therefore help in cost-effective utilization of resources through spatial analysis of the data.

Having stimulated interest to the county residents and subsequently providing a 50% financing of digester installation, the recipients of the subsidies shall pool up labor resources to undertake a predetermined reforestation work. This can be planned such that tree seedlings are availed to them so that they get to plant on their parcels of land and all other public places that will be deemed fit for reforestation. The suitable forest cover size to be achieves can be set at a target that will be realizable sustainably depending on the size of the labor pool.  This will help in creating a revival of the lost forest cover as a result of decades of wood harvesting. The requirements in this activity such as the tree seedlings and logistics can be met by a government agency such as the forestry department.

The position of women may be strengthened in communities, by the biogas programme increasing access for women to credit and savings, ownership of land and cattle, leadership and empowerment. The family workload may be reduced by decreasing the amount of time spent collecting and carrying heavy loads of fuel wood and charcoal, so allowing more time for education, training opportunities and work. Biogas digesters support government agricultural drives for rural transformation in developing nations.

The following entities will take active roles in the making of a management board committee and subsequent running of the program:

  1. Kenya Forest Service

Kenya Forest Service will identify where reforestation will be done. This includes the land parcels of the digester recipients. The Corporation will also provide tree seedlings that are to be planted to the farmers at concessionary prices. The corporation will oversee the management of the tree seedlings during growth and their utilization after maturity of the trees.

  1. Hivos

Hivos is an international organization that seeks new solutions to persistent global issues by cooperating with innovative businesses, citizens and organizations. The organization shall provide consultancy services given its track record in the country.

  1. County Administration Chiefs

Given the land ownership structure in Kenya, the County Administration officers will play the technical role of verifying the genuine landowners and their households.

The County Administration Chiefs together with Forest Service Organization shall, upon consultation with Hivos International, design the organizational structure of the Biogas Adoption implementation and management body. The body shall comprise such members as:

  • An eminent person from the counties
  • Members from the Kenya Forestry Service
  • A local administration officer
  • A member from a recognized institution of higher learning
  • A representative from the Business community
  • A woman representative
  • Any other person that shall be deemed necessary to the project.

The implementation and management board shall open a bank operational account with a financial institution through Kenyatta University Chapter in which the funds for starting up the program shall be released. For transparency purposes, the University Chapter shall have a mandate on the transactions affecting the bank account. A financial audit can be done on quarterly basis by an independent and reputable audit firm. The audit report shall be communicated to a joint task force comprising of consultants from Hivos, Kenya Forestry Service Management board and selected members from the community.



Who will take these actions?

The project will be implemented in terms of an all inclusive program that brings on board all rural area farmers who keep livestock, Vihiga County Government, corporate organizations, non-governmental organizations and any other individual or entity wishing to become an investor. Each farm household will take ownership of a digester to be set up at their premises by meeting a prerequisite 50% cost of putting up that particular digester. Maintenance of the digester shall become the responsibility of the household once it has been set up and is working.

An entity, most suitably a managerial committee, that will spearhead the program and work closely with the County Government and local administration units shall be set up and tasked with the following mandate;

  1. Managing and coordinating the program including designing and implementing a work plan through which the goals and the objectives of the program will be achieved.
  2. Designing the mechanism through which funds in the program’s kitty shall be utilized. The funding scheme will see the farmers meeting a portion of the total cost of setting up a complete biomass digester and the other portion can be paid by the donors.
  3. Creating and maintaining a farmer register that will capture data regarding the requirements for that particular household’s digester as well as information regarding progress.
  4. Evaluation of the program and communicating to the stakeholders on the progress of the program. 

The Biogas Adoption Program management committee shall be formed by the stakeholders and perform its functions as an organized entity as described in the timeline.

Where will these actions be taken?

Bordering Kakamega County to the North, Nandi County to the East, Kisumu County to the South, and Siaya County to the West, Vihiga County in western Kenya is the proposed place where the program shall be launched. Vihiga County has a land area of 530.9 Km2 with an annual average rainfall of between 1,800mm and 2,000 mm and average temperature of 24ºC.  Agriculture is the main economic activity for the residents. Crops planted include maize, millet, bananas, avocado, papaya, sweet potatoes and cassava. Livestock rearing is practiced throughout the County.

Owing to the increase in population, the rise in energy demand has made the residents here to place unprecedented pressure on the scarce forests. Within the last two decades, the county has lost more than 40% of its forest cover because of the reliance on wood fuel. The use of biogas energy to meet domestic energy needs is therefore an idea that can be applied almost throughout the entire county. This will in turn provide space for the restoration of traditional forests such as the Maragoli hills forest which was cleared of trees.

A management committee of the Biogas Adoption Program shall therefore be set up at the County headquarters from where it will perform its duties.

What are other key benefits?


  1. Soil and Water Conservation:

Forests play a significant role in environmental conservation and water catchment protection as most of the water sources in the country originate from these areas.

2. Conservation of Biodiversity:

A wide range of both flora and fauna species are found within Kenya’s natural forests, some of which are endemic to specific forests in the country. Out of these, the rare and endangered forest-dependent species are found in these forests hence the conservation of these forest areas are of vital importance.

3. Recreation, Education and Research:

Forest recreation (e.g. eco-tourism) is today becoming very popular whereby natural forests and other natural formations are attracting a large number of eco-tourists into the country.

4. Carbon Sequestration:

Natural forests in addition to other vegetation cover act as carbon sinks hence playing a global role of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and decrease in the greenhouse effect.


What are the proposal’s costs?

  1. Setting up of 20 pilot digesters in the County

It costs approximately US$ 1162.79 to set up one biomass digester, (Kenya National Domestic Biogas Program 2014)

Therefore 20 digesters would amount to

20 × 1162.79 = 23,255.8$.

Since these digesters will be entirely on piloting program, they will have to be installed with funds from the program’s kitty.


2. Awareness and Sensitization.

This will include civic education exercises, public discussion forums, presentation and communication of the idea to stakeholders. A vothead of 23,255.8$ is proposed.


3. Program Implementation

The program shall meet 50% of the total cost of setting up a digester for the targeted 500 households while the household meets the remaining 50%. Therefore, a total of 290,697.5$ will be required to meet the 50% costs on behalf of the farmer.

That is 500 × 581.395 = 290,697.5$

The funds shall be raised from donations, grants and or any other sources.


4. Program Evaluation

A total vothead of 20,000$ is being proposed for conducting evaluation exercises of the program.


5. Total Cost

The total cost of the program shall be 357,509.1$. This will be the cost transforming some 520 rural households from being firewood dependent to an eco-friendly subscriber when it comes to energy demands for cooking and lighting.

Time line

Step1. 1 Month.

January 2016, Presentation of the proposal to stakeholders.

This will mark the first step of the project. The idea is communicated to the following stakeholders;

  • The farmers in the County through  the County Farmers’ Federation (KENAFF, Vihiga County)
  • The County Government.
  • Credit bureaus, donors, corporate organizations and the private sector.
  • Biogas dealing companies.
  • The Scholar community for scientific and technical input.


Step2. (4 Months)

Feb – May 2016, Setting up of pilot project.

This will entail identification and selection of areas where pilot projects will be set up to act as demonstration points during the awareness and sensitization period. During this time, field surveys can be conducted to collect baseline data on items such as the exact number of farmers who use firewood fuel, the acreage of land that can be restored to forest cover once the project sets rolling and the sustainability prospects of the program.


Step3. (4 Months)

Jun – Sept 2016, Awareness and Sensitization of rural area dwellers on the importance of the program.

An awareness and sensitization exercise follows after the pilot digesters have been set up. The pilot digesters will act as demonstration points hence their success is key to success of the awareness stage.


Step4. (1 Year)

Launching the program to the rest of the County.

After a successful awareness and sensitization exercise, the program should be commissioned immediately. Households will have to register with the managing and coordinating committee and pay the 50% cost of setting up the digester.


Step5. (4 Months)

Oct 2017 – Jan 2018, Evaluation of the program.

This may include environmental impact assessments and audits. Assessments can be done at quarterly intervals to ensure that that the program remains on track.









Related proposals

  1. Integrated Energy Production, Waste Treatment in Ghazipur catchment, East Delhi.
  2. Using Biogas Technology To Improve Sanitation And Mitigate Climate Change



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  2. Government of Kenya. Ministry of Planning and National Development. (2011).Population and Housing Census 1999. Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) Nairobi.
  3. Government of Kenya. Ministry of State for Planning, National Development and Vision 2030. (2008). Kenya Vision 2030 Blueprint.
  4. Ewing B., D. Moore, S. Goldfinger, A. Oursler, A. Reed, and M. Wackernagel. (2010). The Ecological Footprint Atlas 2010. Oakland: Global Footprint Network.
  5. Gupta, Sujata (2010). Bio gas comes in from the cold. New Scientist: Sunita Harrington. London.
  6. Jacqueline M. Klopp,(2012) Deforestation and democratization: patronage, politics and forests in Kenya. Journal of Eastern Africa Studies. Nairobi
  7. Olive M. Mugenda, Abel G. Mugenda. (1999). Research Methods. Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches. (Revised 2003) Acts Press, Nairobi.
  8. Shell Foundation. (2007). Biogas for better life Feasibility report on promoting biogas systems in Kenya.
  9. Susan Moraa Onuonga, Martin Etyang, and Germano Mwabu. (2011). The Demand for Energy in the Kenyan Manufacturing Sector. The Journal of Energy and Development. Volume 34, Number2
  10. Tom Bond, Michael R. Templeton. (2011) Energy for Sustainable Development. History and future of domestic biogas plants in the developing world. Vol. 15 p347-354. Retrieved from Ebook Library.
  11. United Nation Foundation. (2003)Energy Subsidies. Lessons learned in assessing their impacts and designing policy reforms.
  12. The Internet, -(Wikipedia website)

                     -Basic Information on Biogas,