Kunini Energy Project is the brainchild of London-based Taraba State indigene, Ellison Christopher Kunini, who has in the last five months been working on generating energy, electricity and gas from plants and bio-degradable waste at his over 25-acre Kunini Village in Keffi, Nasarawa State, where a majority of people use firewood as fuel for cooking, and there is no grid electricity available. He shares his experience with Adedayo Adejobi on the challenges, his belief about his innovation providing an answer for the energy needs of homes, in education institutions, agriculture, businesses and other areas of life where the use of energy is required

The big idea and approach
The idea to try anaerobic digestion for myself was birthed in 2010 in London, England, but the history of my knowledge extends even farther to a Costa Rican coffee farmer whose pigs supplied the family’s cooking gas with an innovative, hand built system on his homestead. Biogas digesters are also not a new technology in Asia or Europe, and continue to increase in the USA and Africa.

My approach has been to start by trying to identify the issues at the top of the agenda in many discussions concerning the needs for energy in Nigeria and Africa. I then looked in detail at cases of poverty and why the administrative system fails to deal with the issues.

So, I decided not to sit and say, ‘this or that must be in place before we act’, but rather, to look for indications of strength within communities and the readily available resources that can be drawn upon to achieve particular ends. The emphasis is upon making the most of what is available now, rather than awaiting for some better politically harmonious future. The Kunini Energy Project is a new and interesting project aimed at making cooking gas (biogas) and electricity accessible and safe to use for the people of Africa, especially those living in rural areas, by converting organic materials (waste) into energy which can be used as a fuel for cooking and electricity. Our digesters are made with care, love and critical thought for specific situations requiring specific solutions

The experiment
In a bid to address the aforementioned, I then decided to visit Taraba State, Nigeria, after I and my team embarked on the feasibility studies and tested the suitability of biogas production. We noted that the weather and the abundance of human and animal waste are conducive for biogas production. This made it possible for us to design biogas digesters that would deliver sustainable gas production for home use and in future industrial use. In fact, we are a family made up of people from all over the world who bring their talents, expertise and skills, and that is why we are strong.

After two and a half years spent preparing for the project take-off, Ellison Christopher Kunini resigned a well paying job at the Raven University in London for an unknown future to kick off a laudable innovation, Africa’s first bio-gas project on a 25-acre permanent settlement, land where animals, energy crops under the auspice of testing and demonstration site, just 30 minutes drive from Abuja, Nigeria.

Despite the fact that Moringa is very popular in Nigeria, there are so little records of its history. We have a huge plantation of energy crops like Moringa, Miscanthus and Okra because they are known to local Nigerians and is not too difficult to grow. Moringa is a fast-growing, and drought-resistant tree.

Generating bio-gas through cow dung…
Biogas has 55-65 per cent methane. Its heat value is about 600 BTU per cubic foot. This compares with natural gas’ 80 per cent methane, which yields about 1000 BTU per cubic foot. About 2 cubic feet of gas can be generated from 1kg of cow dung. It is easy for Nigerians to improve their lives by creating sustainable living from potential human and animal waste in their backyard, thus reducing carbon emissions, creating employment and sustainable living by using what is readily available in the community (waste) to produce energy (biogas) that can used as a fuel for cooking and electricity.

For Ellison Christopher Kunini who collects cow dung from the the cow pen, my overall vision is to see my passion work and transform the lives of ordinary people in Nigeria and Africa. I believe Nigeria can provide an answer for the energy needs of homes, in education institutions, agriculture, businesses and other areas of life where the use of energy is required.

Giving voice to rural communities
We are building community-based biogas digesters and co-ordinating structures to ensure sustainability. A biogas digester, also known as methane digester, is a piece of equipment that is used in converting organic matter into useful energy source (gas). Plants grown specifically for biogas production are not to be considered as waste. The first place we are planning to start training communities how to build and use biogas for cooking and electricity is Kunini, a small village in Taraba State located in the Northeastern part of Nigeria with 60,000km² of land mass.

The state lies largely within the tropical zone and has a vegetation of low forest and grassland and few mountains. The state is divided into 16 local government areas with Jalingo as the capital and has the population of about two million people. At the moment, electricity supply from the national grid is distributed in four towns (Jalingo, Wukari, Takum and Zing). Some of the towns in the state rely on the power supply from the isolated generating stations under the Rural Electrification Scheme. All other towns have no power supply either from the national grid or from under the Rural Electrification Scheme including the Kunini Village.

A majority of people in Taraba State, northern states, east and rural areas in the west of Nigeria use firewood as fuel for cooking, others use gas and kerosene. However, there is increased deforestation with adverse effects on the people and the climate. The everyday use of firewood is usually inconvenient, apart from the expense of obtaining it. Biogas, a more convenient energy source – which can be obtained from agricultural waste such as maize, rice, sorghum, millet, cassava; livestock waste from cows, pigs, poultry – will give the people a more productive and better quality of life. My dream is to help these communities use the waste produced at homes and in farms to create energy enough for them to cook and power their homes.

With the knowledge that there is no grid electricity available, it means locals have to cater for energy for cooking and light. The local economy is very poor and the level of poverty is far from good. The innovation will be there to help these people build their own biogas digesters to produce their own cooking gas and light, using animal waste, and also help those that do not have animals to grow energy crops that can be used to produce biogas, cook a day’s meal for a family of up to five members, power motor vehicles, heating and electricity.

The invitation
The invitation to take part in what the Kunini Energy Project will be doing throughout Africa, starting in Nigeria, is open to anyone who has an open mind and willingness to give something new a try. We have very high standards for ourselves, our training, our digesters and for all participants. With a quality anaerobic digester, there are endless potential for methane-produced electricity and cooking fuel, on a commercial and humanitarian level, which can be harnessed by individuals and governments alike.