Harnessing Biogas in Kenyan Schools for Sustainable Energy and Education

Authors: Anthony M. Wanjohi and Peter Gichini
Kenya Projects Organization
P.O. Box 15509-00503, Mbagathi, Nairobi-Kenya
Corresponding Author Email: [email protected]


Schools in Kenya have great potential in biogas application owing to the abundance of the raw materials that are used in biogas production. Biogas application may provide a long-term solution to the energy demand in schools. This article provides as overview of biogas in schools and its benefits in Kenya’s context.


Introduction
In recent years, Kenya has been at the forefront of promoting sustainable practices and renewable energy sources to address the challenges of energy access and environmental conservation. Biogas is a source of renewable energy that was introduced in Kenya in the 1950’s. Biogas is a methane-rich gas produced by anaerobic digestion, which breaks down organic matter in the absence of oxygen (Sara, 2017).

Human waste bioreactors require a large amount of raw material in order to consistently produce biogas. When biogas production from human waste is compared to that of cows, a single cow’s waste can produce enough biogas to cook for 1.5 hours per day, whereas a human’s waste can only produce biogas for 2 to 3 minutes each day, this is equivalent to one cow produce waste equivalent to that of ten people. The reduced production levels are due to human wastes’ is lack of many nutrients as compared to that of animals as a result of a more efficient digestive system (SISTEMA BIO, 2018). As a result, human waste, biogas system requires to be setup in areas where there is abundant of the raw material. Areas such as schools and municipal sewage are prime locations to set up human waste biogas plants.

Schools in Kenya harbor large portion of the population, with estimates putting the figures around 13.36 million school going children and students in 2019. With the average school population being around 273 children per school. These numbers can effectively produce adequate and regular feed for the biogas system (Welp, 2021). A properly feed human biogas plant can successfully support and sustain school energy needs. Installation of a human biogas system offers several uses in such setting (Sawa, 2012).

The Need for Sustainable Energy in Kenyan Schools

Many schools in Kenya face challenges in accessing reliable and affordable energy sources.
Traditional methods of energy generation often contribute to deforestation and environmental degradation. Additionally, unreliable electricity supply hampers the effective implementation of educational programs, hindering the overall learning experience for students. Biogas emerges as a viable alternative, providing a clean and sustainable energy source while also addressing waste management concerns.

The implementation of biogas systems in schools involves the installation of biodigesters that break down organic waste, such as food scraps and animal dung, to produce methane gas. This gas is then harnessed for cooking, lighting, and other energy needs within the school premises.
The biodigesters not only contribute to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions but also create nutrient-rich slurry that can be used as organic fertilizer for school gardens, promoting sustainable agriculture practices.

Benefits of Biogas in Schools

Educational Opportunities: The introduction of biogas systems in schools provides a unique opportunity for hands-on learning about renewable energy and environmental conservation. Students can actively participate in the maintenance and monitoring of the biodigester, gaining practical knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Additionally, teachers can incorporate lessons on sustainable living, waste management, and the importance of renewable energy into the curriculum.

Cooking Solutions: Biogas can be used for cooking meals in the school. Biogas offers an alternative to firewood as a source of energy used for cooking. This saves time that was to be used for splitting wood and cooking time.

Bio fertilizer: Biogas by products (bio slurry) are used to grow food products especially horticultural products that can be used to feed the students as well as reducing the costs of buying the products from other farmers.

Lighting: Biogas can come in handy in areas where lighting connections is yet to reach. It also cuts costs on lighting costs.

Eco friendly way of waste disposal: Biogas plants offers a platform where waste produced in the schools is properly managed and controlled. This helps in releasing waste that has less risk to the environment.

Cost-Efficiency: Biogas systems offer a cost-effective solution for schools, reducing dependence on expensive fossil fuels or grid electricity.

Environmental Conservation: By converting organic waste into energy, schools contribute to reducing the carbon footprint and promoting a cleaner environment.

Improved Health and Safety: Traditional cooking methods in schools often involve the use of wood or charcoal, leading to indoor air pollution. Biogas provides a cleaner alternative, improving the health and safety of students and staff.

Community Engagement: Schools with biogas systems become community focal points, showcasing sustainable practices and encouraging neighboring households to adopt similar initiatives.

Conclusion

Integrating biogas systems into Kenyan schools not only addresses the energy needs of educational institutions but also fosters a culture of sustainability and environmental stewardship among students. This initiative aligns with Kenya’s commitment to achieving sustainable development goals and provides a model for other regions to follow. As these schools lead by example, they contribute not only to a brighter and cleaner future for students but also to the overall well-being of the communities they serve.

References

Olunga, I. B. (2017). Potentials for Anaerobic Digestion of Sewage for Energy Production and Environmental Protection in Secondary Schools of Kakamega County, Kenya.

Sara, T. (2017). Fact Sheet-Biogas: Converting Waste to Energy.

Sawa, P., (2012). Biogas Project Helps Kenyan School Save Money, and Trees, The Christian Science Monitor. https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Making-a-difference/Change

SISTEMA BIO (2018). Bio digestion for sanitation: Human waste versus animal waste.

Welp, J. (2021). The Progress and Potential of Education in Kenya. https://borgenproject.org/potential-of-education-in Kenya.