By Siebe Aanbeek
An old door, black as soot, leans against a tree on the Waweru family yard in Kenya. The building it used to open into has been demolished. Further on, the roof and the timber of the walls have been stacked into neat piles. Peter Waweru stands in the middle of the clearing he has created and wipes the sweat from his brow. Today’s work is done.
When his wife Regina returns from the market she sees that her old kitchen has been broken down. Only charred remains in the red earth reveal where, until last week, she would fuss daily over her sooty pots and pans. In the dark, surrounded by thick smoke, she would fan the fire for hours to keep the coals hot. She has cooked here for as long as she can remember. She will not miss it one bit.
Satisfied, Regina goes inside and greets her husband. Business was good today. The Wawerus were able to sell their supply of goat milk and after paying for the groceries there were a few hundred shilling left. A big bag of maize meal is the most important ingredient for tonight’s meal. Regina enters the first door on the right in the hallway and puts a big pan of water onto her brand new stove. She checks the gas meter: there’s enough pressure for this evening. A match and a turn of the knob are all she needs to produce a clean and hot flame. Regina prepares Ugali with the maize meal without coughing and having to fan a piece of cardboard.
The new biogas digester
Peter starts the next day by tending to his pigs. The sty is barely big enough for the pregnant sow and her litter of five. A newly dug gutter in the floor of the sty is filled with pig manure. This is easily cleared out with some water. Cleaning the sty has become much easier and it no longer stinks so much. What’s more, the gutter drains into a hole in the ground that is connected to the new biogas digester. This morning’s manure will produce the fuel for tonight’s cooking. Peter still thinks it’s amazing, but he is getting used to it fast.
The biogas digester was a major investment for the Wawerus’ farm. Around a third of the purchase price was paid by the Hivos/SNV biogas programme, but Peter and Regina have to pay the biggest share themselves. To finance this they took out a micro loan which will be fully repaid in four years’ time. The biogas programme ensures that the loan is in order and that clients get the best out of their biogas digester by providing training and carrying out quality inspections.
Good investments pay for themselves. The Wawerus cook on biogas, light their home with a gas lamp and fertilize their fields with the slurry that remains in the digester. Two months ago Peter and Regina bought the last supply of coal, kerosene and fertilizer they will need. The Wawerus are already saving more than they are repaying.
Peter wants to use the savings to expand their farm. The litter of piglets that is due will stay on the farm. There is enough money for the pig feed they will need and it will not cost them anything to expand the sty. Peter will build this himself and they already have the timber for the walls and the roof: neatly stacked and blackened by soot.
Watch how biogas works – Kenya