Sustainable energy in Kenya’s slums

In the impoverished Nairobi neighborhood of Kibera an innovative program is not only helping to solve sanitation problems in the area, but also turning the problem into a green energy solution.

The high, and rising cost of fuel – kerosene, paraffin, charcoal, firewood – eats up a large perecentage of the household income of the poor living in the slums. The use of polluting energy sources in closed spaces is another charge against the health of the people, the wider environmental implications of fossil fuels or inefficiently burned biomass completes a glum accounting. At the Katwekera Tosha Bio Centre, set up with the help of the Umande Trust, however, Kibera residents can safely and cheaply cook food using biogas generated from the center’s toilets.

The centre has toilets and bathrooms on the ground floor — the toilets are connected to a bio-digester, with a dome-shaped holding tank in which biogas is produced. Raw human waste from the toilets flows in, and bacteria break it down, releasing methane gas which collects at the top of the domed tank. “A pipe is then plumbed into these toilets and connected to the first floor, which is where the cooking area is located,” says [center manager David] Kihara. The gas is piped to collective stoves one floor up — and is usually sufficient for community members to cook on throughout the day.

From a business perspective this biocentre is also interesting. Katwekera makes a profit of between 250 and 450 euro’s a month, this money is being re-invested in the centre.

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