Human excrement is proving to be such a valuable resource, that if harnessed in large scale, renewable energy will save planet earth from deforestation. Folks in Nakuru have switched to Makaa dot com which are round-shaped compressed briquettes made from sawdust and human waste used as fuel.
Manufactured by Nakuru Water and Sanitation Services Company (NAWASSCO) the idea of these briquettes was inspired by the need to address sanitation challenges, which the county at large has struggled to sustainably reduce the menace and risks associated with inadequate access to sanitation services.
According to Mr John Irungu, the General manager at NAWASSCOAL, a subsidy company, the programme was aimed to demonstrate and implement a commercially viable sanitation value chain benefiting residents of an urban low-income area in Nakuru who are not connected to the sewer lines. Most of the homesteads in the low-end estates were surrounded by inefficient and leaking sewers discharging untreated effluent into the environment.
“There are more than 500 families living in slums in Nakuru which we saw were at high risk of contracting sanitation-related diseases as a result of incomplete and open sewer lines. The situation could always worsen during rainy seasons and we had to quickly think of a better way to manage it,” he noted.
Licensing bodies and the Nakuru County Health Department had reservations about the project, asking how the waste was going to be collected, transported and treated in accordance with the law and the locals too had their doubts.
Kevin Ochieng, the production Supervisor at NAWASSCOAL said they were forced to lobby the Nakuru County Assembly for a comprehensive Public Health Bill that addresses how to handle human waste, removing the legislative restrictions. The process was finally approved by the National Environment and Management Authority (NEMA) and the products certified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS).
To produce the briquettes, the waste is put in a processing plant dried for two or three weeks, inside a greenhouse. The hot temperatures in the greenhouse take out most of the moisture from the sludge, making it ready for carbonisation, it is then heated in high temperatures and all harmful gases burned off to eliminate the bad smell. The waste is grounded up finely, mixed with sawdust and molasses then moulded into little balls.
The briquettes burn longer, save on cost and are suitable when cooking time-consuming foods.
“I prefer using the briquettes over normal charcoal as they have really helped me in my small business to save on cost and also keep time in preparing breakfast and lunch for my customers, who are mostly mechanics,” said one resident.
“They also have no smoke. At first, my family was worried that the briquettes would produce bad smell in the house but when I tried them out, no one has ever complained,” added another.
Two years in business the manufacturer looks to produce more to meet the increasing demand for the briquettes. A two-kilogram bag which is the smallest fetches Ksh 60, five kilos at Ksh150, twenty-five kilos at Ksh750 and fifty kilos at Ksh1500.