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Once upon a poop, now cheaper odourless makaa

Health & Science
 Cabinet Secretary for Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing & Urban Development James Macharia and Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui had the privilege to taste sausage cooked using Briquettes made from Human waste during the World Habitat day celebration at Nawascoal briquettes plant at Kaloleni in Nakuru County on October 7, 2019. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

In the sprawling estate of Bondeni overlooking Lake Nakuru National park, the sight of ‘Honey Sucker’ trucks traversing to the neighbouring sewage treatment plant is a common sight.

This disposal area has also witnessed an increase in the number of customers buying briquettes made from poop and saw dust in what has turned into an award-winning business model.  

The business started as an idea to solve sanitation challenges in managing human waste disposal and which birthed a vibrant briquette manufacturing business currently generating 15 tonnes of briquettes a month.

The ambitious project by Nakuru Water Sewerage and Sanitation Company (NAWASSCO) and Dutch water company, Vitens-Evides, not only generates income, creates employment, but also goes a long way in creating sanitation solutions while conserving trees via offering alternative forms of fuel.

Currently, the project is under Nawassco’s subsidiary company Nawasscoal in “a circular economy where human poop is turned into briquettes,” says Nawassco MD, Eng James Nganga of the bio-mass fuel production company which uses “sawdust and human waste as raw materials turned into briquettes which are used in place of charcoal.”

Nganga said that the project is a more sustainable and healthier alternative supplying briquettes to over 50,000 families in Nakuru while reducing health risks associated with human waste in residential areas. A family can use two kilos of briquettes at Sh30 a kilo, which is cheaper and burns longer than charcoal.

Reinilde Eppinga, a sanitation advisor with SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, which is a partner in the briquette project, said only 27 percent of Nakuru residents are connected to the town’s sewerage system. The situation, she said, calls for a better way to dispose of the large quantities of human waste generated daily.

“The threat of water contamination in Nakuru is real and this project came in place to mitigate the challenge where human waste is often dumped in storm drains and rivers. Utilizing the waste while conserving the environment is key,” explained Eppinga of the project that won the 2018 Iko Safi National Awards, Sanitation Industry Category.

 It is estimated that one tonne of briquettes saves over 80 trees and thus saving forests which boosts improvement on water catchments and effluent going to Lake Nakuru.

Nawasscoal MD, John Irungu, said that the briquettes, locally known as makaa dot com has been certified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards as well as National Environmental Management Authority and can be used for cooking, grilling and by poultry farmers in brooding.

 The initiative by the County Government of Nakuru, Nakuru Water and Sanitation Company (NAWASCO) and development partners makes briquettes from human waste with a kilogram retailing at Sh39, relatively cheaper compared to ordinary charcoal which sells at Sh70 per KG. [Kipsang Joseph,Standard ]

“The briquettes we produce are economical, affordable and smokeless. They are also odourless and soot less and work perfect in grilling, cooking, baking and warming spaces,” said Irungu adding that “the product is most preferred by poultry farmers since it produces very little carbon compared to charcoal. It is recommended for both domestic and institutional use.”

With a tonne of briquette saving 88 trees translates to over 1200 trees every month and “the project besides solving the challenges of underground water pollution, is also saving forests,” he said.

Process of generating briquettes entails sludge disposal into the company’s processing plant. The content is then emptied into drying beds inside greenhouses where it is left to dry for up to three weeks after which the dried chunks are heated in a drum kiln at high temperatures to burn off any harmful gases while eliminating pathogens.

“This step also makes the feces odourless,” explained Irungu. “A similar process of carbonizing sawdust also takes place in an open pan” in a process that also entails the use of molasses as a binder.

Initially, the project received Sh400 million in grants from the European Union and which funded expansion of the project into a business that is currently a model in demonstrating commercially viable sanitation value chain.

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