NAIROBI—Biogas is a great option for Kenyan schools upcountry as they have both land, cows and often the students have multiple meals on campus requiring large quantities of cooking fuel. Takamoto Biogas was asked to run tests on 8 schools’ systems that were built within the past 2 years to see how the schools and communities were adapting to having biogas and to test the systems themselves to check that they were operating at full capacity.
As always, these tests resulted in more information than simply the quantity of gas being produced. Over a short time, some of the schools have made great improvements thanks to the biogas. For some of the other schools, however, the change was too extreme from their previous way of doing things and we found them back to their old ways of cooking having left the biogas plant dormant. Of the eight schools tested, the results were 50-50. Four were using biogas and four were not.
This plant on the top left is well maintained and is producing gas. However it is not fed as much dung as necessary for this size. After our evaluation they agreed to find other sources of dung to increase gas production. The plant on the above right has not beed fed properly and therefore on the expansion chamber the dung is too think and cannot flow. Inside of the dome the same thick sludge is blocking the flow of gas. The solution for this problem would be to clean the digester and train the users so that the dung fed into the system is properly cleaned and mixed with the right ratio of water.
The systems that were functioning well had some things in common. A team was in place to manage the biogas system to ensure it was regularly fed, the dung was cleaned of impurities that could cause blockages before being used and to oversee the usage of the plant. Also the schools either owned animals or had agreements with the local farmers to collect dung to use for the plant. And finally, student involvement with the plant was encouraged. See below a child who now prepares tea for the rest of the group because cooking with biogas is as simple as striking a match.
The same school has added some unique elements to their biogas plant. For example, they have build a dome over the expansion chamber for safety.
As mentioned above, many of the schools are not only schools but homes for the children where they will eat most of their meals. It was great to see, therefore, some of the schools making use of the bioslurry fertilizer to grow crops that would later be lunches and dinners for the children. The implementation of a biogas plant at these schools is helping to promote the natural cycle of food to waste to energy to food again.
As with any new way of doing things, a change of perception must also be taught. Even with the schools using the biogas, some were led to believe that the biogas systems could offset all of their cooking needs so when this is not the case they think that the plants are not functioning at capacity. However with few animals and many meals to cook this is not a realistic expectation and requires some more training to explain that even if not all of the costs are offset, the biogas is still a very wise investment and of great benefit to the schools.