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Enterprise

Maasai clan’s abattoir spins off thriving biogas

Biogas production area at the Keekonyokie Slaughter House in Kiserian town, Kajiado County on October 18, 2013. Photo/SALATON NJAU
Biogas production area at the Keekonyokie Slaughter House in Kiserian town, Kajiado County on October 18, 2013. Photo/SALATON NJAU  NATION MEDIA GROUP

The sun is shining on a business that recycles waste, including cow dung and livestock blood, from a slaughterhouse to make biogas for cooking.

What started out as a simple venture in 2004, slaughtering only 30 cows per day, is now a multi-million- shilling business that processes 150 cattle daily.

The venture, run by a Maasai clan, has grown rapidly with members diversifying to generate biogas.

‘‘Keekonyokie project slaughters about 150 cows daily in addition to 80 goats. We charge Sh400 for a cow and Sh130 for a goat,’’ Michael Kivue, the manager of Keekonyokie slaughterhouse in Kiserian, told the Business Daily.

The initiative, he said, creates employment for 20,000 pastoralist families both in Kenya and northern Tanzania. Keekonyokie has 16 shareholders who run two slaughterhouses.

‘‘Our biogas plant uses waste from the slaughterhouse, we intent to produce more energy for sale. We are targeting poor households who use charcoal and firewood to cook, the projects will also help reduce deforestation,’’ said Mr Kivue, who is in charge of enterprise development.

The project is funded by the World Bank through its Climate Innovation Centre which has interest in enterprise, climate change intervention and agri-business — targeting small and medium business in developing countries.

Edward Mungai, the chief executive officer of the Climate Innovation Centre, told the Business Daily that the project seeks to discourage the use of trees as a source of energy and to bring on board efficient yet conventional energy models that conserve the environment.

‘‘Keekonyokie abattoir generates about 20 metric tonnes of waste. To manage the waste, Keekonyokie constructed a biogas digester. The slaughterhouse’s waste is channelled into the digester where it is treated with anaerobic bacteria.

‘‘The process produces biogas, which is piped to a 200m3 biogas storage facility, as well as slurry which can be used as organic fertiliser.
‘‘The plant currently produces 600m3 of biogas per day,’’ said Mr Mungai in an interview.

He said that the partnership with Keekonyokie started in November 2012. At that point, Keekonyokie had a biogas plant at the initial slaughterhouse where excess amounts of biogas were being produced.

Mr Mungai said that the company wanted to package and sell excess biogas as cooking fuel but did not know how to package the product and to operationalise the spin-off business.

‘‘We started the partnership because we thought the idea had great potential, if successful it could be replicated across the country,’’ he said.

The Climate Innovation Centre provided the group with business advice and support over last year, including testing the biogas product with Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (Kirdi) and later awarding the project $30,000 (Sh2.5 million) for packaging and marketing the product.

The business started in 2004 when a clique of Maasai herders and businessmen came together to set up a slaughterhouse.

As that point, the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) was a thorn in their flesh over the abattoir’s waste management model.

Then, the slaughterhouse was in an open field in Kiserian town.

They were also grappling with an imminent closure. Shareholders were desperate and the next idea that crossed their mind was to look for land on which to set up a permanent slaughterhouse.

Fortune smiled their way after the defunct Kiserian County Council allocated them land. Members pooled funds and set up the slaughterhouse.

They were also assisted by non-governmental organisations which sank Sh2.5 into the venture before the Climate Innovation Centre came on board.

Challenges

Today, the entrepreneurs run a successful business which has defied a myriad challenges to excel.

Keekonyokie has started packaging biogas in containers with refilling going for Sh600 per six kilogramme container. The end product is already in demand in Kiserian town and its environs.

‘‘In Europe, biogas energy is used as a mode of transport. India has also adapted the same,’’ says one of the members.

He says that the venture is suitable for rural communities given the huge percentage of households which use firewood as the main source of energy.

The raw material, a members says, is free which translates to low charges in terms of refilling containers. Keekonyokie members have also come up with their own containers which resemble those already in the market.

‘‘The challenge of producing biogas energy in urban areas is lack of land and cows. Currently, a cow cost between Sh40,000 and Sh70,000 which is quite exorbitant. ‘‘The space to house livestock is also a bigger challenge,’’ said another member. Funding is another challenge. Sadly, the Kenyan government has never funded the project.

‘‘Bureaucratic institutions are doing nothing to help inventions like this. Kenya is being killed by tender-preneurs who broker the government to benefit themselves.

Imports

‘‘The country cannot turn to cheap imports while locals offer better products with no market, the government should offer solutions,’’ said Mr Kivue.

But the group’s passion for success has kept the venture growing stronger. Today Keekonyokie members have two slaughterhouses. ‘‘Cows mainly come from Tanzania while goats are sourced locally. We charge traders for using our facility, this is how we make a living.

‘‘The project is owned by the original 16 members, their sons inherit their shares when the founders die,’’ says Keekonyokie chairman Kipuni ole Tunda.

In a good month, the venture makes about Sh1.3 million. Management says that it is keen on diversifying the venture by setting up meat supermarkets in the country.

‘‘We are working with Climate Innovation Centre, through help from the World Bank, which will see us set up a bottling plant in Kiserian at a cost of Sh4.5 million.

‘‘The plant will see us package 100 cans of biogas daily and set up shops in Kiserian, Ongata Rongai and Ngong to sell the energy,’’ said  another shareholder.

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