The World Bank recently released “The Power of Dung: Lessons Learned From On-Farm Biodigester Programs in Africa,” an extensive analysis on the state of biogas programs in different countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. We were proud to work with the World Bank in examining not only the state of Sistema.bio Kenya but of the entire country’s biogas program in terms of the actors currently involved, the barriers encountered and possible solutions for a better implementation. We are now here to share the lessons we learned in this process.
The report begins by listing the researched benefits of biodigesters, such as avoided deforestation, soil health improvement, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and waste management. But the main focus was on clean cooking, which coincides with one of Sistema.bio’s most important goals. According to the World Bank, over 700 million Africans use solid fuels as their primary fuel source, and 98% of rural African kitchens depend primarily on wood and coal for cooking. The use of such materials leads to indoor pollution and derived pulmonary infections, a public health challenge that causes more premature deaths than HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis combined with 3.8 million cases per year.
Moreover, the authors conclude that “many cooking with solid fuels are among the world’s poorest, live in rural areas and engage in farming as their primary activity. Hence, there is a clear and necessary connection to be made between clean cooking and agricultural production”. Once again, we find solutions to the world’s most pressing matters by focusing on our small farmers —about 70% of Africa’s population. They really are the key!
Over the last few years, several African governments have included clean cooking technologies in their agriculture programs, and they have begun to see the results. The Kenyan government launched the Kenya Biogas Program (KBP) in 2009 as a key strategy in ensuring food security, clean energy, and environmental conservation. Since then, over 17,000 biogas plants have been installed throughout the country. We at Sistema.bio joined the program in 2017. We have since sold over 2000 biodigesters, with the Kenyan office quickly becoming our biggest worldwide! Our collaboration with the World Bank in developing this report is just another proof of the impact we’ve had on the Kenyan biogas sector over the years.
While the sector has seen exponential growth in the past few years, the lack of regulation is still a major challenge. Mostly, this has led to low quality, expensive and short-lasting biogas systems, huge issues that can only be addressed through social accountability and codes of conduct. At Sistema.bio, we not only address these issues but have built our entire model on finding appropriate responses. We offer prefabricated modular biodigesters made with the highest quality materials, expanding the lifespan of each biodigester to 20+ years under proper maintenance. We train our team to provide technical support whenever needed and, most importantly, we train farmers to do the same. We assess each farm’s needs before installing a system, thus ensuring that our biodigesters provide exactly what farmers and their families need. In other words, we designed the business model to solve the problems faced by the biogas sector as a whole.
So far, the private sector has been the main driver of growth and development in Kenyan biogas. Key private sector players such as Sistema.bio have worked closely with the Kenyan Biogas Program (KBP) to deliver quality biogas systems at affordable prices for farmers. We believe that the biogas sector has the potential to change the lives of smallholder farmers, not only in Africa but also in Latin America and Asia. We are committed to work with organizations like the World Bank to generate more positive business cases of biogas.