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This is how to produce affordable fuel from waste material available in Kenya

By Antony Gitonga | November 4th 2015
Senior county government officials led by Public Health Officer Samuel King’ori (right) look at some of the briquettes produced by Sanivation company. [PHOTO: ANTONY GITONGA/STANDARD]

NAKURU: Residents of Naivasha have a reason to smile after a local based company introduced a new technology which is turning human waste into charcoal.

By embracing this concept by Sanivation Company, the issue of human waste which has dogged many informal estates in the lakeside town will soon be a thing of the past.

Poor sanitation is a challenge not just in Naivasha, but across the country with Association of Public Health Officers of Kenya saying only 65 per cent of people living in rural areas have access to sanitary facilities.

To stop the ongoing open-defecation, association members have moved to introduce Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), which encourages locals to use latrines instead of going to the bushes. Latrine coverage in Naivasha now stands at 85 per cent as more and more people embrace the CLTS concept with Sanivation now moving in to gather waste which they use to produce charcoal briquettes.

The move comes at a time when the county government has admitted that the issue of solid waste management is a challenge with over 12,000 people in the county living without toilets. According to the company CEO and Co-founder Andrew Foote the new plant has capacity to produce 150 tonnes of charcoal every month.

He notes that their briquettes have lower carbon monoxide emissions and no smoke which protects children’s lungs and allows families to cook inside without inhaling toxic fumes.

Foote says production involves processing human and agricultural waste into charcoal balls which are later sold to consumers.

“We are currently collecting human waste from 600 homes at a fee of Sh600 and this is what we are mixing with the agricultural waste to produce the charcoal briquettes,” he says.

Foote notes that this new technology will help reduce diarrhea cases mainly around informal settlements like Karagita in Naivasha.

“This is the only project of its kind in the region and our objective is to connect about one million homes in five years to this technology,” he says.

Once the waste is collected, twice a week, it is treated with a solar concentrator which is later mixed with charcoal dust made from agricultural waste. This mixture is then pressed and dried into perfect pillow shapes ideal for cooking.

According to Jane Wambui, who is a beneficiary of the charcoal, the briquettes are clean, do not emit any smoke and last for a long period.

She admits that it took a lot of persuasion from friends to use the charcoal adding that she has never regretted the move.

“The only challenge is that it takes a long time for the briquettes to light up but once they do, they stay longer compared to the ordinary charcoal” she says.

Nakuru County Public Health Officer Samuel King’ori is full of praise for the new technology saying it will help reduce sanitation related diseases. King’ori said the county is losing Sh972 million every year in addressing issues of sanitation related diseases.

“Already over 500 villages in the county have been declared defecation free under the community led total sanitation project,” he says adding that they have embarked on training staff and the public on the need to use latrines and wash hands.

Environment County Director Timothy Mureithi also hailed the project noting its massive capacity to address the re-current issue of waste management. He also expressed optimism that as more and more homes adopt use of the briquettes it would result in drop of firewood use which is a boost to conservation efforts in the county.

His sentiments are echoed by Foote who says once their concepts is fully embraced and practised it has capacity to save 88 trees per tonne.

He also said the up take of container-based toilets, which they install free of charge in the homes they work with, prevents contamination of local water sources making the project an all-round environmentally friendly idea.

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