Kenya: Best Practice Case Studies

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Energy programs have been implemented across Africa and specifically the Eastern Africa by various organizations for over 25 years. Programs have evolved and improved by taking advantage of both formal and informal communication of program features and lessons learned.
The best practice projects presented here seek to build experience and knowledge by establishing a structure for sharing best practices to help meet today’s complex energy challenges.

Energy-Saving Institutional Stoves in the Mt. Kenya Region, Kenya

Firewood collection leads to the destruction of trees that could absorb carbon dioxide emissions and degrades local ecosystems, particularly in the watershed region of Mt.Kenya. The Kenyan government has banned the collection of firewood from the watershed region of Mt.Kenya to curb this, which in turn has caused a significant rise in the cost of firewood for schools in the area (as high as $25 per ton) and increasing the amount of time children in some schools use to searching for fuel wood. Time which could otherwise be spent on learning.

Implementation Strategy

This 2001 GEF small grants programme funded project involved replacing open fire cooking systems in schools with heavy-duty, brick-insulated stainless steel stoves that require 60 - 70% less firewood. In doing so, schools saved money on fuel costs and reduce smoke and emissions. In schools where children must collect firewood, the use of more efficient stoves allows children to spend more time studying.

The implementing NGO, the Renewable Energy Technical Assistance Programme (RETAP),addressed financial barriers via a credit system that enabled a school to pay off the cost of a stove over two years. Some schools also started planting their own woodlots, using certain varieties of eucalyptus trees, to grow their own fuel. A number of schools estimated that the financial savings resulting from the stoves and woodlots may translate into 5-10% reductions in the cost of education per year.

In 2007 UNDP/GEF funded a similar project in conjunction with the Ministry of Energy with RETAP as the partner. In partnership with GIZ they partnered to strengthen the Improved Stove Association by bringing on board the Jua Kali (informal) stove builders sector. The project that ended in 2010 aimed at replicating the successes in Mt Kenya region to other regions in Kenya.

Impacts and Benefits

A total of 100 schools in the Mt. Kenya region have installed improved stoves. Prior to installation, each school used an average of about 160 tons of wood per year. The new stoves have saved each school 96 tons per year, making the total reduction in firewood use about 9600 tons annually. Some schools have begun to plant their own trees (20 schools participating in the project planted a total of 100 acres of forest). Together, the reduced firewood use and increased tree planting reduces carbon dioxide emissions and increases carbon sinks.

In schools where students are required to help search for firewood, they will no longer have to collect so much firewood, thereby allowing them more time to study. The project has also provided practical environmental education for students, focusing on energy efficiency, tree planting and biodiversity conservation. Environmental education for students is essential in securing sustainable management of energy and forest resources in the future.

The direct financial savings from reduced fuel wood use represent a significant economic benefit to schools. The cost of stoves is repaid using financial savings accrued from reduced fuel wood use, thus schools do not have to incur additional debts and/or raise money from other sources. This self financing of the stoves is the most unique innovation of the project and underpins the success and sustainability of the revolving fund credit scheme. Taking into account the fact that the stoves have a lifespan of ten years, and the credit is fully repaid in two years, the financial savings in the subsequent years can be treated as direct economic benefits to the schools.

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Solar Cookers: Expansion of Solar Cooking Program at Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya

Kenya - Solar Energy

Kakuma Refugee Camp is in the North Western corner of Kenya, close to the borders of Sudan and Uganda. It is home to about 80,000 refugees, most of them from the neighbouring countries of Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda and Sudan.
This part of Kenya is extremely dry and wood is very scarce. The majority of families in Kakuma cook on wood and charcoal fires. The wood cannot be sourced locally and has to be imported from other parts of Kenya, and indeed from other countries.

Refugees are not allowed to collect firewood from outside the camp and have to rely on their monthly rations of wood for cooking. The 8-10kg they are given is barely enough to last a month. Some have to trade their meagre food and soap rations with the local Turkana people for more wood or charcoal, and if they don't do this, they are unable to cook until the next wood ration is given out.

The burning of wood contributes significantly to air pollution and to global warming. Every tonne of wood that is burned releases 3.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Since half the world cooks with wood, this is a major environmental problem. The project is addressing this directly by helping people convert to cooking with the power of the sun.

Implementation Strategy

In 1995, the US-based group 'Solar Cookers International' (SCI) started a pilot project in Kakuma that addressed this problem by providing refugees with portable, lightweight solar cookers called 'CooKits'. The project distributed the CooKits and taught people how to use them effectively. The aim was to demonstrate that solar cooking was a practical alternative that would save both money and wood.

At the beginning of the pilot project, SCI spent several weeks working with community leaders and refugee women, learning about cooking and eating habits in the camp, and how people got extra wood if they needed it. They cooked solar meals with the refugees and made some adaptations to recipes to suit the CooKit. This helped them plan how best to introduce the idea of solar cooking. A group of trainees were taught how to use the CooKit and then shown how to train others.

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), under the auspices of UNHCR, manages Kakuma Camp. SCI has been working closely with LWF and with GTZ Rescue, a German NGO, in implementing this project.

Impacts and Benefits

The CooKit is cheap and lightweight, and a very effective solar cooking device. Constructed from foil-covered cardboard, it folds flat, is easy to transport, and can be made up into a working cooker in less than a minute. It is very easy to use and has become particularly popular with elderly and disabled people, as it has no flames.
Kakuma is a very sunny place and gets less than 250mm of rain a year. This makes it ideal for using solar cookers. The refugees only need to use their wood rations on rare cloudy days, so they can be confident that they will always have a means to cook. As a result they never have to trade their food for fuel.

To use the CooKit, you need a blackened pot with a lid and a clear plastic bag. Food is put into the pot, covered with the lid and then put inside a plastic bag. The whole lot is then placed in the centre of the cooker and left in the sun. On a clear day it takes about 4 hours to cook a meal for 4-6 people.

The plastic bag traps heat absorbed by the blackened pot and so cooks the food. It also stops the food from drying out and prevents dirt and dust from getting inside the pot. The bags can be used for about ten days of cooking, but must then be replaced. Each new CooKit user is given two bags to begin with, but after that they must buy the bags for 1.5 US¢ each, a third of their actual cost. All trainees are taught to recycle the bags once they have become too brittle to cook with. Collected up with other plastic bag refuse in the camp, they are used to make baskets, mats and rope. This has had a major beneficial impact on the amount of plastic rubbish in the camp.

SCI has developed a water pasteurisation indicator, called a WAPI, which allows people to use the CooKit for pasteurising water. The WAPI is a small plastic capsule containing soya wax that melts when the water has reached 65oC, the temperature at which all pathogens are killed.
Since the project began in 1995, SCI has purchased and distributed 15,000 CooKits to families in Kakuma.

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Local Manufacture of Wind Energy Systems, Kenya

Kenya - Wind Energy

Small wind energy systems represent a solution adapted to provision of electricity and energy for water supply in isolated settlements and towns.
Supplemented with diesel generators and/or battery backup systems, small wind power systems allow low-cost and much quicker electrification than grid extension. Indeed wind electricity is 2 to 5 times cheaper than photovoltaic electricity; the wide range of small wind turbine sizes and their system modularity enables a larger productive use of electricity (notably through village mini-grid supplied by wind-diesel-battery configuration).

Using wind energy to improve electricity and water supply of disadvantaged rural areas can enhance the development of a more vibrant rural economy with the creation of new commercial activities, especially in the service sector. It would also benefit farming and industrial productivity and profitability and the education and health conditions.

Implementation Strategy

Two manufacturers in Kenya have pioneered the local manufacture of wind pumps and wind generators in Kenya, Bobs Harries Engineering Limited (BHEL) and Craftskills Entreprises, and are providing local energy solutions for off grid households and institutions.

BHEL located near Thika Town, in Kenya, manufacture wind pumps for water pumping locally. The machines, which bear the brand name ‘Kijito’ come in a range of rotor diameters from 8ft (capable of pumping heads of up to 36.5m, to the larger 24 ft diameter windpumps, which are able to lift water from deep boreholes of 152m.

Craftskills Enterprises started working on wind power machines in 2001. The firm, after experimenting on a range of technologies that could provide cheaper, durable and efficient wind turbines, has managed to devise wind cruisers of various specifications. Unlike conventional wind turbines, which use gears and hence require strong winds to be propelled, Craftskills machines operate on bearings, are rugged, strong against windstorms and utilize any slight breeze. The bearings, which the wind cruisers run on, take 5-6 years to replace and their spare parts are locally available. The machines also have charge controllers that enable them to regulate themselves during high wind speeds. Ninety percent of the materials used to manufacture the turbines are sourced locally; recycled metals are used to make the machines and the only imported components are magnets.

Impacts and Benefits

Kijito Windpumps have proved competitive with diesel pumps for small and medium-scale water supply applications, if the wind speed in the least windy month is above 3.5 m/s. In remote areas where diesel fuel transport costs are high, Kijito windpumps can be economical at even lower wind speeds, as long as the water level is high. They are also economical in many remote cattle posts where small, dispersed water supplies are needed for livestock. Over 400 Kijito wind pumps have been installed in Eastern Africa to date.

Craftskills has been able to manufacture wind generators and their accessories, and have installed over 80 wind turbines in 5 countries and its products have been patented by Kenya Industrial Property Institute.
Local manufacture of wind energy systems has led to the employment of close to 40 Kenyans and also ensures readily available installation and maintenance service.

► For more information, click Energy Policy Article on Windpumps and

Community Based Rural Electrification – Micro Hydro: Tungu-Kabiri Pico-Hydro Project, Kenya

Kenya - Micro Hydro

Kenya - Pico-Hydro

Implementation Strategy

This project sought to remove the policy, technical and institutional barriers that limited the development and use of renewable energy sources to meet the energy needs of poor, off-grid communities. By demonstrating how communities can organize themselves to build and operate a micro hydropower plant, and by showing how the new supply of energy can improve their lives, the Tungu-Kabiri community project has stimulated changes in national policy and encouraged efforts to build domestic capacity to produce micro hydro system components.

The guarantee, the Intermediate Technology Development Group Eastern Africa (ITDG-EA), worked closely with the Tungu-Kabiri community in developing and carrying out the micro hydropower scheme . About 200 members of this 300-house-hold community came together to form a commercial enterprise to own and operate the micro hydropower plant. Each individual purchased a share in the company, with the maximum share having a value of approximately $50. The 200 members contributed free labor and participated in building a run-of-the-river, “penstock” type micro hydropower system, dedicating one day per week for over a year. In addition, government involvement was sought from the start, and the Ministry of Energy provided technical support throughout the project. The community acquired one acre of land from the government, where they built a micro-enterprise centre that now receives power through the project. A 10-member community power committee manages the day-to-day operations of the plant, and conducts community consultations to decide upon additional uses for the power generated by the system. In this way, the power committee is also playing the role of a village development agency.

Impacts and Benefits

Grain milling is now carried out using micro hydropower instead of a diesel engine or fossil fuel based electricity. In addition, the community will soon be able to cure tobacco using hydropower rather than biomass, thereby reducing the use of wood resources.

A health clinic was to be set up within the micro-enterprise centre. With the new power scheme, it is possible to refrigerate medicines. In addition, some villagers receive light in their homes, which reduces their use of kerosene and therefore their risk of respiratory and eye problems. Finally, when planned water pumping was to become available, improved access to clean water will help improve sanitation and health.
Running micro-enterprises will provide some increased income to certain households, and provide services locally that previously people would have had to travel far to get. Thus, everyone will save time and money travelling, and some villagers’ income will increase.

Children in houses that receive lighting have an easier time studying at night than before. In addition, those households with increased incomes may now be able to afford school fees.

In addition to the micro-enterprises, a social hall and community development office were expected to receive power, both of which can contribute to creating greater opportunities and an improved quality of life in the village. Micro-enterprises already in operation included a barbershop, a hair and beauty salon, a welding unit, and a battery charging station. These benefits of power can be enjoyed not only by community members, but by residents of neighbouring villages as well.

Supporters in two other communities have built at least two Pico hydro (less than 5 kW) power projects as a result of the demonstration project in the Tungu-Kabiru community. The Tungu-Kabiru project stimulated regional and national interest in learning to construct cross-flow turbines for micro hydropower systems. This project imported a cross-flow turbine from Ethiopia, but ITDG and the Kenyan Ministry of Energy realized these could be made in Kenya. A Nepalese engineering company led a training program for 12 enterprises from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Other donors in the region sponsored a separate workshop on the manufacture of Pelton turbines and electronic charge controllers. As a result, Kenya has established its capacity to build system components, including turbines, penstocks, electronic load controllers and others. The project has also built the country’s capacity to conduct feasibility studies for potential micro hydro projects.

The Ministry of Energy, having been involved in this project from the start, learned a great deal from the experience. The Ministry has realized the potential of micro hydro as a small-scale power source, and has initiated a process with the Kenya Bureau of Standards to establish standards and a code of best practice for the small hydro sector, including standards related to transmission poles, wires and accessories, and general installation.

The project built the capacity of the local community to construct, maintain and repair a micro hydropower system. It also established their capacity to manage and operate a power scheme. ITDG is still providing advice and support as the community decides upon tariffs for the use of power and rent for the use of stalls in the micro-enterprise centre.

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Further Information


  • GTZ (2007): Eastern Africa Resource Base: GTZ Online Regional Energy Resource Base: Regional and Country Specific Energy Resource Database: VII - Best Practice Case Studies.