Adoption of Biogas Technology and Its Contribution to Livelihoods and Forest Conservation in Abogeta Division, Meru County, Kenya
Mwirigi, Erick K.
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Fuelwood is the predominant energy source for cooking in rural households of Abogeta division in Meru County. Previously most wood was sourced from Mt. Kenya forest reserve. However, since enactment of a legislation prohibiting cutting of trees in the national forest reserves in the year 2005 by the Government of Kenya, there has been a serious shortage of wood fuel in Abogeta hence need for an alternative energy source. Biogas technology can greatly impact peoples’ livelihoods particularly in rural areas through creation of local jobs, improving agricultural production, financial diversification and provision of clean source of cooking energy. The main objective of the study was to determine the factors influencing adoption of biogas technology in rural households of Abogeta division in Meru County and assess how rapid adoption could support local livelihoods and conserve forest. Three objectives guided the study; (1) to determine factors influencing adoption of biogas technology in Abogeta division, (2) to determine the contribution of biogas to financial and time savings and how these savings are important to households in improving their lives and (3) to determine how adoption of biogas technology reduces wood fuel demand and contribute to tree cover enhancement in Abogeta division. To achieve these objectives, 230 dairy farming households were sampled. Biogas adopters were purposively selected from 68 households that had already installed the systems while 163 non-adopters were randomly selected from the study population based on administrative boundaries. Primary data were derived from field surveys using questionnaires, interviews and focus group discussions. Analysis of the data was done by use of Statistical Package for Social Sciences. Descriptive statistics, tests of significance (t-tests) at 0.05 confidence level as well as multiple linear regression were used to establish relationships between variables. The study revealed that household income and education level significantly influenced the technology uptake. On the impacts of biogas technology on livelihoods, significant financial savings were realized with an average adopter household saving up to about KSh 3,000 per month upon shifting to biogas energy. Adopter households also used 3 hours less per week in firewood gathering as compared to non-adopter households. Both financial and time savings were used to improve household livelihoods by engaging in extra income generating activities and in social activities. There was also a significant decrease in wood fuel consumption with adoption of biogas. Approximately 150 Kg/household/month and 30 Kg/household/month of firewood and charcoal respectively were saved every month by adopter households. Therefore, if all the 12,100 households in the study area adopted biogas, 180 tonnes of firewood and 32 tonnes of charcoal would be saved every month which would in turn help in conserving murama (Combretum molle) and mwiria (Prunus africana) tree species which are the most preferred species for wood fuel in the study area. In conclusion, the potential of biogas technology in improving people’s livelihoods and conserving forest was found to be significant. However, household income education level and lack of affordable credit facility were found to be the key barriers to rapid adoption.