Kenya – Communal biogas latrines in Nairobi

kiberaThe visionary architect Buckminster Fuller believed that a single design could save the world. That ethos is being carried forward by the Buckminster Fuller Institute, which every year holds a contest to create a design with maximum social impact; the winner gets a seed grant of $100,000. Below is information on one of the competition finalists.

Finalist – Umande Trust, GOAL Ireland Partnership

60% of Nairobi’s population lives in slums which are characterized by inadequate housing and sanitation conditions. Human waste lies on paths and drains and an average of 650 people share each toilet cubicle. The most prevalent childhood sicknesses and 40% of infant mortality are caused by inadequate sanitation. To address this, Umande Trust, a Kenyan rights-based organization, has developed the BioCentre concept. This is a biogas generating latrine block, managed by community groups, which can be located anywhere in a slum as it treats human waste in-situ without requiring sewerage infrastructure.

It comprises of the following:
• Digester: Mixes water and human waste in anaerobic conditions to make biogas; remaining liquid effluent is 90% pathogen free and filtered on site.
• BioGas: Used for cooking and can be linked to children’s feeding projects. It reduces carbon emissions by converting methane to CO2 and water and by substituting the need for other fuels.
• Toilets and washrooms: Ground floor to ensure disabled access with free ‘child only’ cubicles
• Water Kiosk: selling affordable clean water
• Upper Floors: Maximizes restricted urban space, has a hall and ancillary rooms for community and livelihoods activities eg cottage industries or restaurant.

Income generated through rental can subsidize the operation of the toilets. The BioCentre can be built with locally available technology, local unskilled labor and requires minimal maintenance as it has no movable parts. GOAL, an international NGO working with Umande, adds value to the BioCentre concept by linking it to a comprehensive community mapping analysis which highlights specific locations in greatest need of improved sanitation and by incorporating in each BioCentre a room for a community health worker. These are community members, trained by GOAL to disseminate hygiene and health information, e.g. to women queing for water each day, and to make referrals to local institutions for health, HIV/AIDS and child protection issues. Most other initiatives offering sanitation services are plot-based pit latrines which are exhaust human waste into nearby rivers, regularly overflow and often charge high usage fees. The BioCentre is a breakthrough, as it treats human waste in-situ, offers affordable sanitation through its mechanism of subsidizing operational costs, reduces carbon emissions and links to hygiene promotion, health and child protection services.

Describe the current stage of your initiative and your implementation plan over the next three years
Umande Trust has so far completed 12 BioCentres in Kenya. They are scattered amongst various communities and have a verifiable local impact. The Umande Trust, GOAL Ireland partnership aims to achieve a community level impact by focusing on the whole of one Nairobi settlement, Mukuru (population 185,000).

Currently the initiative is completing a participatory urban appraisal on water, sanitation, waste management and drainage. This has highlighted inadequate sanitation as the most pressing need and recommends addressing this by:
• increasing the number of affordable, sustainable, community-managed latrine blocks
• increasing the number of plot-based latrines and improving the quality of existing ones
• developing a community sanitation fund as a self-propagating mechanism for scaling up the intervention

Over the next 3 years, the project aims to reach a critical mass of 20 BioCentres which will serve 12,000 daily users. Each BioCentre will donate 10% of its profits to a community sanitation fund, and this will generate over 10,000 USD per year. This fund will be used to scale up the project through providing leverage to attract Government Decentralized Funding (government allocations to local development initiatives) to develop 2 further BioCentres each year which will then also contribute 10% of profits to the fund. The fund may alternatively support the construction and upgrading of 50 ventilation-improved plot-based latrines each year through partnership with small-scale service providers. These will have lined pits to enable them to be emptied by mobile latrine exhausters into sump tanks which will link to the city sewerage network.

Additional information and photos

29 responses to “Kenya – Communal biogas latrines in Nairobi

  1. There is a statement that says the “remaining liquid effluent is 90% pathogen free and filtered on site”, and we do not know what it means. From out technical bias it could mean one of two things:
    a) That there is a filter system that filters all the pathogens out of 90% of the water, and concentrates it into the remaining 10% or
    b) The filter reduces the pathogen load by 90%.
    If the meaning is as in a) then we are very interested as it holds great potential, but if it is the latter then it is about what can be normally achieved in similar technologies.
    Is it possible to provide some clarity on the subject.

  2. I am in to Renewables and very interested in your biogas latrines concept. I represent a London base renewable energy company. Could you please set up a line of contact and some clarity on this subject.

    • I represent a company called Bomabora in Kenya, whose main objective is to install biogas plants in rural house holds with a view to utilize latrines as a source of heating and lighting fuel, in addition to animal waste.

      You may contact me for more details.

      • makonen o.odongo

        hello lydia iam interested to start the same mainly on human waste i want your mentorship coz iam very green on this kind of bussiness but i think i has great potential in slums where there is poor sanitation

      • hallo Lydia.
        would like to contact you for clarification and enlightenment into these issue.

  3. does the word digester refer to the cultured bacteria to accelerate the rate of anaerobic breakdown of the waste or a machine that disintegrate the waste into small pieces hence increasing the surface area.

  4. suppose one would want to invest in the programme, are there possible economic returns or is it just about environmental benefits.

  5. Carol Stocking

    A friend just bought a little land on the outskirts of Nairobi where there are no water, sewage, or power services as yet. Is there a biogas system that could service a private residence of 2-4 people, 1 cow, 1 donkey, and some chickens? Thanks in advance for your kind assistance.

  6. If one would want to invest in the programme, are there possible economic returns or is just about enveronmental benefits. Thanks.

  7. I would like to install one one the outskirt of Nairobi. How can I get help from my personal land of 3 to 5 people?

  8. i would olso like to install one in a private farm innyahururu rural .how do igo about it?

    • Francis K Kangethe

      I am Francis Kamande known by my business name as Biogas Construction & Energy Development Co. Ltd and based at Thika. I am a Biogas Contractor approved by GTZ and now working in collabotarion with KENFAP in constructing Domestic Biogas Digesters, whereby they are offering a subsidy of K shs 25,000/= to any farmer willing to construct biogas plant and has between 2 – 12 cows. However we also construct lager digesters for farmers who have more than 12 cows but without giving them subsidy.

  9. Francis, please contact me via

  10. Kindly let me have your contacts.
    I would like to use a pit latrine for the biogas for a school in maai mahiu

  11. This june , july & August 2011 we at Bygrace children’s home (Orphanage) Ngong outskirts of Nairobi built a biogas digester using cow dung and got the 25% subsidy referred above by Kangethe. I want to assure all that it works wonderfully. We cook for 40 breakfast (can bathing water for the same); 90 lunch and 40 dinner. Our use of fire wood has reduced by around 50%. We are so excited and looking forward to adding to our 5 cows so that in the near future we can build a second one and all together stop using fire wood. I am so inspired and out to share with fellow Kenyans this wonderful discovery!!! God bless those who took time to research it out and to market it.

    Stephen Mbogo – Founder ByGrace Children’s Home

  12. Hello,
    Am wangai and I really like this idea and have been researching on it for some time. I have just completed my degree and am looking into self employment and am interested in your help. I need advice and more information. Please comment.

  13. hi LYDIA..please get in touch with me.i’d like to hear more on this

  14. Hi,
    I sent you an email sometime in 2009 about your Biogas concept, but you did not respond. There are communities all over the world how will benefit from this system. Please get intouch.
    Kind Regards

  15. Where can i buy a biogas burner in Nairobi, please reply to my email address

  16. joseph mwangale muchmi

    hi guys my name is joseph mwangale muchami am abiogas constractor i have a business ferm call baraka energy renewable enterprises i best in eldoret kenya .now iam in biogas industries in ten years now have work with minstry of energy for two years all so gtz now kenfap.ihave constracter 300 learge biogas plant 2000 small size and one bio toilet of 48 cubic metre in a school in eldoret so iwould like to work with you thank you am looking to hear from you

  17. I am interested in istalling biogas in the village(Meru) repply to in advance

  18. TAm in the process of introducing a biogas system for urban use. The products am currently reaching on biogas production using readily available materials. Once this is done we will roll it out and this would greatly reduce urban expenditure on energy. The initial cost will be low and affordable.

    • Hi Ken
      I run an energy consultancy company in london called Ecobay Ltd. We focus mainly on Green energy enhancing nature`s energy. We like the biogas idea for urban use and want to open a line of communication with you on this subject.

  19. I work for an environmental consultancy in Dubai and would like to know more on this and look forward for business oppurtunity..Could you kindly contact me in aravindan3232@GMAIL.COM

  20. Stephen Koigi Kahuria

    Is this project still on or has stopped ?

  21. could you assist in constructing a latrine in kisumu ndogo Korogocho

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