High cost of fuel pushes more consumers to embrace cheap and clean energy from biogas
Posted Wednesday, June 13 2012 at 20:43
When the price of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) rose to unaffordable levels for most Kenyans in the first three months of last year, Mrs Ngethe Kahura, a dairy farmer in Muguga, Kiambu, started seeking an alternative to her energy needs.
The price of crude oil, from which LPG is derived, has continued on a steady upward trend for the fourth consecutive year pushing up all by-products of the world’s main source of energy; mainly driven by increased global demand.
In Kenya, the situation was last year made worse by a weakening shilling which dropped to a historical low of Sh107 to the dollar which significantly increased the cost of crude which must be imported.
These factors, including local infrastructural inefficiencies that have over the years resulted in erratic supplies causing shortages in many instances, saw the price of the product which is used for cooking hit an all-time high.
Mrs Kahura decided to sell two dairy cows from a herd of seven and used the proceeds to set up a biogas unit so that she could reduce her energy costs, which had risen to more than a third of her monthly household budget.
“LPG was expensive and one cylinder would only last a month,” she said during a tour of her farm last week, adding that fire wood, which she has been using to supplement her energy needs, has also become too expensive.
She is one of the 4,683 biogas users who have over the past three and a half years installed biogas units country wide, through the Kenya National Domestic Biogas Program (KENDBIP) which gives each farmer Sh25,000 as an incentive to install a unit whose cost varies with size.
A four cubic metre unit which requires a farmer to have at least two zero-grazed animals costs between Sh50,000 and 60,000 while a 12 cubic metre which requires farmers to have seven zero grazed animals will cost between Sh100,000 and Sh120,000.
The KENDBIP programme is one of six being implemented by the Africa Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPP) being run by Hivos, an international development organisation based in the Netherlands which is being funded by the Directorate General for International Cooperation of the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In Kenya, the programme is being implemented by the Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers.
Mrs Kahura said that she resolved to install a biogas unit last November because of the ever increasing cost of Kenya’s main sources of energy for cooking, heating and lighting, a decision that is now not only seeing her earn from selling the milk produced by her five remaining dairy cows but also drastically save on energy expenses.
“I also used to spend about Sh3,000 on firewood which would last approximately one and a half months,” she said adding that her biogas unit has cut the need for firewood all together, a move that is potentially expected to leave more trees standing in a country where the forest cover has been depleting.