Transforming a Maasai Community With a New Approach (Part 2)
by Christian DeVries
Francis Chepyegon, communication officer with Heifer Kenya, photographs bio-gas units at the Maasai Animal Health and Livestock Marketing Project in the Narok District, Rift Valley Provence, Kenya. Photos by Russ Powell
Heifer has provided training for 11 community animal healthcare workers who live in and around Suswa Centre. These 'barefoot vets' service huge areas providing small farmers with essential vaccines and medication. Their impact has been phenomenal. Before this project, farmers were losing 50% of their calves to East Coast Fever; now it is only 5%. More and healthier animals resulted in increased income.
More cattle also create more manure. Ramat can hold as many as 1,000 bulls. As you can imagine, they leave behind a mountain of manure. Together Heifer and Ramat are just finishing construction on a giant bio-gas unit to collect all of this potential energy.
Once the tanks are filled they will capture the methane in a massive balloon that is 8,829 cubic feet. The staff at Ramat estimates that it will produce enough gas to generate 440kW of electricity at any one time, enough energy for 9,000 families. They also hope to install gas pipes from Ramat to Suswa, so they can sell the gas for cooking and lighting.
Heifer knew that building a bio-gas unit would also help address a very serious local environmental concern erosion. Almost all of the trees in this area had been cut to create charcoal. This deforestation created erosion and destroyed much of the areas grasslands which the Maasai herders depended on. Ramat is working to restore these areas by limiting grazing and seeding pastures with a drought tolerant grass.
In addition to improving the environment, this project will also raise the standard of living for those who live nearby.