Sistema Biobolsa promoting use of biogas in East Africa

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A farmer, George Kariuki using biogas to cook
A farmer, George Kariuki using biogas to cook

Sistema Biobolsa has established itself as a rapidly growing biogas company in East Africa. The company has a strong network in Kenya, Uganda and the entire East African region. The company has offered employment opportunities to many job seekers in the region. For instance, 60 people have been employed to serve as distributors, technicians and marketers of the Hybrid Reactor bio digesters in different parts of Kenya.

Global Commercial Director of Sistema Mr. Cedric A. Todwell has teamed up with other partners to promote the use of biogas and organic fertilizer in Kenya and the entire East Africa region. This has resulted to an increase in production of organic foods that are highly recommended for consumers’ health.

Sistema technology is in line with the Government of Kenya’s agenda in considering various ways of reducing dependency on charcoal, firewood and kerosene by increasing access to modern energy services using renewable energy sources especially in rural areas. Renewable energies provide an opportunity to address climate change as well as pushing for the achievement of development goals at the same time.

Sistema has also been distributing free avocado seedlings to farmers, as well as encouraging them to practice organic farming and on the need to conserve forests.

Todwell together with Sistema.Bio founder Alex Eaton, has within a year facilitated supply of more than 2000 Hybrid Reactor bio digesters to farmers between 2017 -2018, giving access to clean cooking energy to thousands of consumers in Meru, Kiambu, Kericho, Eldoret and other parts of the Kenya.

Availability of simple, cheap methods to produce biogas has stimulated demand in poorer households as Kenyans embrace the use of biogas for cooking.

Sistema has also boosted income of farmers with larger bio digester units and more livestock on the farm as some farmers opt to trade their surplus gas with neighbours.

There has been a rapid increase in demand for biogas in Kenya as a result of legislation restricting timber harvesting within county governments and desire for environmental conservation.

Todwell, a popular Kenyan marketer has leveraged his expertise to make Sistema.bio profitable in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia in the Energy, Agriculture and Sanitation portfolios by implementing strategies such as franchising and engaging dairy cooperatives.

“Our product comes with a 10 year warranty and we offer after sale services. For example after installation we visit a farmer after 30 days, second visit after 90 days and third visit after 120 days to ensure the system is working well for the benefit of the client,” said Todwell.

His efforts go a long way in achieving the Sustainable Development goals of Poverty Reduction, Energy access, Gender Equality, Food Security, and Sanitation.

Last week, the Sistema team visited Mr. George Kariuki, a farmer in Karatina town, Kiambu County to check on how he is making use of his biogas project.

George Kariuki with his dairy cows. Cow dung from the dairy farm is used for producing biogas

Mr. Kariuki is a dairy farmer who also harvests organic coffee, after acquiring the new bio digester. He began using Sistema last year and reiterates that his cost of farming has reduced significantly because he now makes his own organic fertilizer.

“Sistema biogas system is more efficient and produces more gas, enough for my household and organic fertilizer for my coffee farm. I therefore appreciate the quick customer service that Sistema offers,” says Kariuki.

He has become a champion of Sistema among his friends in the county and other rural areas. Sistema had also given Kiriuki his first manual coffee grinder.

The Sistema technology includes anaerobic reactor, inlet of 200L, fertilizer outlet and storage, cook stove, 35 metres gas line, H2S filter, pressure relief valve, two water tramps, and protective geotextile.

Regular feeding of the digester is recommended for a continuous supply of gas. The feeding frequency could be daily, weekly or twice a week.

The farmer is only required to pay 20 per cent of the total amount for the bio digester to be installed and then the remaining amount is paid in installments for 12 months. The farmer pays for the amount in installments without being charged interest.

“Most farmers have realized the need for producing organic foods that comes with health benefits and with the new hybrid reactor digester system a farmer gets cooking gas and residue used on farms as organic fertilizer,” he said.

The company has been sensitizing communities living around key forests on matters regarding conservation by encouraging them to use biogas as the residue of the bio digester is used as organic fertilizer. The new bio digester is environment friendly as it produces clean cooking gas.

Kenya biogas program, a government agency has been supporting the company through the SNV program that offers farmers a subsidy of Sh9000 per unit. It has as well helped in terms of market access and quality control. Kiva Kenya has also been supporting the bio digester project by ensuring farmers don’t pay interest when acquiring Sistema.bio products.

Most of the material for the bio digester are imported from Mexico but tubes and connectors are obtained from local manufacturers. The major challenge is the very slow clearance of the containers at the port before the material is released for distribution and installation on farms.

“The major challenge we are facing is the very slow clearance process for containers at the Port which takes sometimes 8 weeks hence the burden of storage charges at the port warehouse,” said Todwell.

He said the government should ensure fast clearance of containers or else continuous delays will scare investors.