Dairy farmers adopt biogas to cut costs
The well-lit milking house parlour allows Thomas Kamau’s 10 cows to feed even at night. The more the animals feed, Mr Kamau says, the higher the milk production.
The good lighting has made Mr Kamau to work even after darkness has set in, enabling him to double his milk production.
“The beauty of the lighting is that I am not restricted to feed the animals during daytime,” he says, noting that this has been made possible by the biogas produced on the farm.
“The biogas has saved me a lot of money that I would have been using on the conventional power supply,” says Mr Kamau, a dairy farmer from Lanet, on the outskirts of Nakuru Town.
He is among an increasing number of dairy farmers who are turning to green energy to power their farms and double their incomes. They are using gas generated using cow dung to light their homes, cook food and boil water.
“I embraced the technology during the Covid-19 pandemic and it has brought down my cost of production,” Mr Kamau tells Smart Business.
“Before biogas I was paying Sh3,000 and above to Kenya Power. Today I pay Sh1,500 and this is good savings and I have increased my food ratio to my animals.”
Paul Ruto from Elementaita in Gilgil sub county, Nakuru County, also uses biogas generated from his 15 cows to cook and light his home.
“I no longer destroy the tree covers in my 10-acre farm to make firewood or charcoal for cooking because with biogas it is not necessary,” says Mr Ruto.
David arap Kosgey, a farmer in Rongai, Nakuru, was confronted by the challenge of steep energy costs on his farm, including for lighting, heating and cooking, which would eat into the profits of his dairy enterprise.
With eight dairy animals on his paddocked farm, Mr Kosgey was pleasantly surprised when, at a farmer empowerment session in the area, he realised he could use cow dung to generate biogas for powering his farm, including taking care of his household energy needs.
“In 2018, I attended a dairy training session organised by Brookside Dairy, where there was a presentation on green energy solutions for the farm. I was thrilled at the prospect of using biogas, which is a clean and renewable energy source, as a strategy to manage costs on the farm,” he says.
Today Mr Kosgey has significantly reduced the costs of running his farm, after Brookside Dairy organised installation of a biogas unit on his farm.
“I use the biogas to run my household energy needs like lighting and cooking. It is also used in warming water for sanitary management of milking,” Mr Kosgey notes.
The Nakuru-based farmer is currently working with the leading processor to pilot the use of the same biogas to run fodder shredders on his farm.
Brookside, who partners with over 165,000 farmers across the country, says it has up-scaled adoption of clean energy solutions as part of smallholder empowerment geared towards making dairy more profitable.
“The technology used to produce biogas is relatively cheap, easy to set up, and requires little investment of work and time,” says John Gethi, Brookside’s director of milk procurement and manufacturing, adding that the processor is encouraging thousands of its farmers to adopt the technology.
The biogas also generates organic fertiliser in the form of slurry, which is used for fodder and food production, says Mr Gethi.
“We will continue to promote adoption of clean energy solutions in the dairy value chain in order to improve efficiency at the farm level. The use of biogas improves and enriches the crop-livestock-eco-system,” he adds.
Apart from biogas, Brookside is also piloting the use of solar technology for the distribution of water on the farm including irrigation – all geared towards increasing farm output.
According to the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro), energy is crucial for smallholder farmers. Farmers need energy for cooking, lighting, warming and drying on the farm. While fuel wood is the principal farm-based source of energy, it is often in short supply due to the effects of deforestation.