Most of Kenya’s cattle are produced by members of the Maasai tribe, who are traditional nomadic herdsmen. In 1981, a group of Maasai families formed an association and established the Keekonyokie livestock market and slaughterhouse in Kiserian, an hour southwest of Nairobi.
The market allows them to earn more by selling directly to customers, and the slaughterhouse produces a higher quality of meat with some veterinary oversight.
The slaughterhouse doesn’t sell meat, but its services to small butchers and restaurants that buy live animals at the market. Kenya is a “warm meat” market, so what is slaughtered in the morning is sold and served that evening. Thirty per cent of the meat eaten in Nairobi comes from the plant in Kiserian.
“A vibrant livestock trade maintains this town,” says Michael Kibue, manager of the project. “Over two hundred thousand traditional Maasai families depend on this market.”
The success of the slaughterhouse means a huge amount of waste, which until 2005 was poured down the side of a hill into a nearby river. Then the association installed two anaerobic digesters and used the biogas to generate electricity for the plant. There was a surplus, so biogas was piped to seven hotels in the area for cooking fuel. But there’s still an excess, so now the goal is to sell to local families.
“The vision is to package biogas for the poor,” says Kibue. “Biogas is a good source of energy, it burns clean and is low cost.”
Charcoal is the most common source of cooking fuel in Kenya, but it causes air pollution, respiratory issues, deforestation and drudgery for the women who walk long distances to collect it. The Keekonyokie group worked with a local manufacturer to develop canisters, developed its own process for compressing the gas, and is now seeking the necessary government approvals to commercialize its system.
“If the packaging works, it will be a first for Kenya,” says Kibue. “Biogas will generate more money than the slaughterhouse.”