About three billion people worldwide use solid fuels for cooking according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The World Health Organization (WHO) has put the numbers at 4.3 million deaths per year due to smoke from open fires and traditional stoves. In other words, someone is dying due to inefficient use of biomass fuel. Biogas is a clean cooking fuel alternative that eliminates indoor air pollution, putting an end to one of Kenya’s top causes of death and disease.
SimGas designs and mass produces high quality, modular, domestic biogas and bio-sanitation systems. It was founded by two brothers, Sanne and Mirik, in 2009, with the idea to design and bring to market a highly scalable biogas digester that would provide clean energy and fertiliser for millions of people.
The biogas systems enable rural households with livestock to use the manure from their livestock to generate clean fuel for cooking and organic fertiliser. The high quality, modular, domestic biogas systems are easy to install and can be done in two days.
SimGas has a business model that enables clients, to receive a loan that enables them to buy a SimGas system. They also have a deal with the World Bank (Ci-Dev) that buys carbon credits, which allows SimGas to provide a guarantee and full service for five years to the clients. On average, the systems will remain functional for approximately 20 years.
To date, SimGas has provided more than 2,000 farmers with biogas systems. Some of the benefits the farmers have received include additional income and increase in crop production as a result of using the organic fertiliser on their land and selling it to other farmers. They are able to save on their household budget, time spent collecting wood fuel and the amount of cooking time reduced.
Using biogas has some health benefits for the clients, as they do not have to use fossil fuels such as charcoal or wood that produce toxic fumes. It ensures the reduction of more than eight tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions per year per household. It also prevents the felling of approximately 7.42 tonnes of wood per year per household in Kenya thus reducing deforestation.
Through their vision, SimGas believes in empowering people by offering them graceful, reliable and sustainable tools that help to improve their lives and income positions. They take social and environmental impact as seriously as economic impact. “We are creating impact through mass production, modularity and standardisation, combined with highly scalable business models. Our secret is the combination of local presence, great partnerships and smart investments in research and development. We measure what we do, learn from the results, and adjust our strategy accordingly. This is what makes SimGas a true trailblazer and helps us create immediate impact that lasts,” Noted Mirik Castro, CEO.
SimGas joined Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) one year ago when they applied for a grant for the development and testing of a new product: a remote monitoring and control device that is able to track the performance of the digesters. This device makes it possible to improve the service offering to the customers and enables innovative customer finance models.
The project entails a test with 10 prototypes and a pilot with 150 units to test commercial roll out. With a mass-manufacturing facility in Tanzania, they are the largest supplier of domestic biogas systems in Africa. They are looking to increase sales in the East African region: Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia. Their ambition is to become the number one supplier of sustainable and decentralised utilities in Africa and Asia.
By Michelle Mung’ata