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May 13, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rude sea mammals

When Kenyans go abroad, they see, or should I say, hear? things from a totally different angle. Listen to this

Rude Sea Mammals

July 27, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Response to condom experiment on food waste vs dung for biogas

I got a really interesting response from T.C. Culhane to my earlier blog post on my experiment about biogas in which I tested the theory about kitchen waste vs cow dung for methane biogas.

My condom experiment showed that cow dung was far superior to kitchen waste in gas production

Here’s what Culhane had to say

“Marcel Lenormand called my attention to what you are doing.  It is great to see a small-scale experimental design for biogas which can be easily replicated. With my experience building digestors in Kenya as well as Egypt, Tanzania and the U.S. I thought I might share some thoughts.  First, you will not get any appreciable methane from the food waste container and you are right, it will rot and consume the air (this is the sucking the condom into the cup you observed). This is because food waste contains virtually no methanogens if any at all.  We did the same experiment in Cairo with a 200 liter drum filled with food waste to prove it to ourselves, just in case.  One needs a source of methanogenic bacteria, and normally that is from cow or horse or pig dung (others have used goats and cows and I’ve even started a digestors using my baby’s soiled diaper). However once you have enough bacteria producing gas the kitchen waste is a superior food. In all the cases we’ve observed the dung definitely starts producing gas first because the mix of dung and food can turn too acidic, inhibiting methanogen growth. This is why Dr. Karve always recommends you start your digestor with animal dung first and WAIT until you get your first FLAMMABLE methane before adding food waste.  But from then on you need only add food waste. You just have to make sure you do not add too much.  Karve says (and we’ve confirmed) to start feeding slowly, about 200 grams at first and gradually building up to no more than 2 kilos a day for a 1000 liter system.
It may be that what you are observing in your condoms is not methane at all, but CO2, for this is the first gas to be produced.  Over a period of several weeks the CO2 concentration drops to about 40% and the methane concentration increases to about 60% and that is when it starts burning.  So don’t let the gas production you see at first be the indicator of how well your system is doing. What you are trying to do is grow a stable and large colony of methanogenic bacteria.  Once you have done that, you can start feeding the food waste and you will not have to feed animal wastes again (though you are always welcome to — it is a good thing to add fresh bacteria through new dung introductions but if it gets to be a hassle you don’t have to put more in.) Among the Masai at the Boma we recommend putting any waste cabbage leaves and potato skins and ugale that fell on the floor and mix in any cow dung that is convenient. The addition of the food wastes improves output. Hope that helps!”

Well, Mr. Culhane this really helps a lot and though my dung digetser is working fine now,  I do have to go back to the drawing board and re-do the experiment but will need a new supply of condoms for that!

Read more about the how we installed a flexible biogas system at home on Afrigadget.com

June 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Does kitchen waste produce as much biogas as fresh cow dung?

I am hoping to have a very successful home biogas production system (which I wrote about here)  in about 2 weeks. But what should I feed into my system to make it really successful?

According to Dr. Anand Karve  on the ARTI website 2 kg of carbohydrate rich vegetable feedstock produces about 500 g of methane, and the reaction is completed with 24 hours. While the conventional biogas systems, using cattle dung, uses about 40 kg feedstock to produce the same quantity of methane, and requires about 40 days to complete the reaction. He won an award for this finding.

So should I switch from cow dung to kitchen wastes?  I’m not convinced – maybe Dr. Karve’s Indian cows are less flatulent and produce little biogas – I know that our Kenyan cows are super producers of gas.  But then how can I be sure?

A shitty experiment

To find out whether kitchen waste is better than cow dung, I am conducting an experiment that involved cow dung, plastic cups, condoms, water and kitchen wastes.

I added equal amounts of dung and water and mixed it and poured into a plastic cup, then covered it with a condom to enable me to see the gas forming.

The same amount of kitchen waste was similarly mixed with equal amounts of water and mixed poured into a cup and covered with a condom.

A third experiment involved a mix of dung and mashed kitchen waste, mixed with equal amounts of water, poured into a plastic cup  and covered with a condom. I conducted this experiment in my kitchen using clean disposable utensils and unused condoms (had to say that just in case you people think I’m really weird).


I’ll be posting the results in pictures here

Day 0 (May 25 9 pm)

The condoms are all empty and flaccid. Sad. There was a slight emergency when one of the condoms broke as I was putting it on the cup…  I had to get more condoms purchased at 9 pm. Pharmacist was amused.

Day 2 (May 27th 9 am)

Hmmm, some biogas already being produced and poop looks like it’s slightly more than poop and veg which is more than veg alone. So far I’m putting my money on cow poop.

Day 3 May 28 10.20 pm

Watch this space for coming days and potential explosion of cow poop in my kitchen.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Our wedding is helping Kenya’s IDPs

During a visit to Nakuru recently we dropped in on an IDP camp.

What we saw and heard was infuriating, humbling and down right wrong. The Kenyan Government has abandoned thousands of people who cannot go back to where they came from.

Today we are going back to the IDP camp after we made a promise that we would try to help. On our own a contribution would not have really amounted to much.

So we asked all our friends and guests at our wedding to help – and they have.

We’ve raised a little money which we will take today. Watch this space for photos.

May 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The history of Kenya as told by the former colonialists

According to the BBC, this is a chronology of key events that shaped Kenya:

You’ll notice that they conveniently forget that the Chinese were in Kenya from the 15th Century…

They also don’t mention that over 14,000 Kenyans died during Mau Mau – and less than 100 whites

Kenya first president

Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta (his name means the light of KEnya) wore endangered species skins and carried an ivory walking stick). Like Presidents Moi and Kibaki after him, he showed little concern for the environment and wildlife and left a legacy of destruction. His own direct relatives engaged in the ivory and rhino horn trade leading to the collapse of Kenyas herds. Frankly the British didn’t do much good either – they started the whole concept of killing animals and destroying our forests.   Grrrrr…..

Interestingly the post election violence that rocked Kenya in 2007 elections saw 1,500 killed, vs less well reported 2000 who are reported to have been killed in 1992 elections.

Bombing of the Norfolk Hotel in 1980 is not mentioned

Listen to one of Kenyattas most famous speeches here

BBC version of events

Evidence of some of the earliest human settlements has been found in Kenya, suggesting that it was the cradle of humanity from which descendents moved out to populate the world.

Maasai women
Maasai women: Once-nomadic tribes are turning to crop farming

600 – Arabs begin settling coastal areas, over the centuries developing trading stations which facilitated contact with the Arab world, Persia and India.

16th century – Portuguese try to establish foothold on Kenyan coast but are driven off by Swahili states and Omani Arabs by late 17th century.

1830s – Omani Arabs consolidate control of coast.

1895 – Formation of British East African Protectorate.

Early 1900s – White settlers move into highlands, railway built from Mombasa to Lake Victoria.

1920 – East African Protectorate becomes crown colony of Kenya – administered by a British governor.

Mau Mau

1944 – Kenyan African Union (KAU) formed to campaign for African independence. First African appointment to legislative council.

1947 – Jomo Kenyatta becomes KAU leader.

1952 – Secret Kikuyu guerrilla group known as Mau Mau begins violent campaign against white settlers. State of emergency declared. Kenyatta arrested.

1953 – Kenyatta charged with management of Mau Mau and jailed. KAU banned.

1956 – Mau Mau rebellion put down after thousands killed – mainly Africans.

1959 – Kenyatta released from jail but under house arrest.

1960 – State of emergency ends. Britain announces plans to prepare Kenya for majority African rule. Kenya African national Union (Kanu) formed by Tom Mboya and Oginga Odinga.


1961 – Kenyatta freed and assumes presidency of Kanu.

Kenyatta was Kenya's founding father
Independence activist, jailed by the British, became president

1963 – Kenya gains independence, with Kenyatta as prime minister.

1964 – Republic of Kenya formed. Kenyatta becomes president and Odinga vice-president.

1966 – Odinga, a Luo, leaves Kanu after ideological split, forms rival Kenya People’s Union (KPU).

1969 – Assassination of government minister Tom Mboya sparks ethnic unrest. KPU banned and Odinga arrested. Kanu only party to contest elections.

1974 – Kenyatta re-elected.

Moi era begins

1978 – Kenyatta dies in office, succeeded by Vice-President Daniel arap Moi.

1982 June – Kenya officially declared a one-party state by National Assembly.

1982 August – Army suppresses air force coup attempt. Private Hezekiah Ochuka rules for about six hours.

1987 – Opposition groups suppressed. International criticism of political arrests and human rights abuses.

1989 – Political prisoners freed.

1990 – Death of the foreign minister, Robert Ouko, in suspicious circumstances leads to increased dissent against government.

Multi-party elections

1991 August – Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (Ford) formed by six opposition leaders, including Oginga Odinga. Party outlawed and members arrested. Creditors suspend aid to Kenya amid fierce international condemnation.

Daniel arap Moi (1991 picture)
Daniel arap Moi, one of Africa’s “Big Men”

1991 December – Special conference of Kanu agrees to introduce a multi-party political system.

1992 – Approximately 2,000 people killed in tribal conflict in the west of the country.

1992 August – Ford splits into two factions – Ford-Asili (led by ex-government minister Kenneth Matiba) and Ford-Kenya (led by Odinga).

1992 December – Moi re-elected in multi-party elections. Kanu wins strong majority.

1994 – Odinga dies. Opposition groups form coalition – the United National Democratic Alliance – but it is plagued by disagreements.

1995 – New opposition party – Safina – launched by palaeontologist Richard Leakey. Party refused official registration until November 1997.

1997 – Demonstrations calling for democratic reform. World Bank withholds disbursement of $5bn in structural adjustment credit.

1997 December – Moi wins further term in widely-criticised elections. His main opponents are former vice-president Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, son of Oginga Odinga.

Embassy bomb

Kenyans were the main victims of the 1998 US embassy bomb
1998 attack on US embassy in Nairobi killed 224, injured 4,500

1998 August – Bomb explodes at US embassy in Nairobi, killing 224 people and injuring thousands.

1999 – Moi appoints Richard Leakey to head government drive against corruption.

2001 April – Leakey appears in court to face charges of abuse of power and perverting the course of justice.

2001 June – Parliament passes a law allowing the import and manufacture of cheap copies of anti-Aids drugs.

2001 – Ethnic tensions culminate in several violent clashes. In December thousands flee and several people are killed in rent battles involving Nubian and Luo communities in Nairobi’s Kibera slum district.

2002 July – Some 200 Maasai and Samburu tribespeople accept more than $7m in compensation from the British Ministry of Defence. The tribespeople had been bereaved or maimed by British Army explosives left on their land over the last 50 years.

2002 November – 10 Kenyans, three Israelis are killed when an Israeli-owned hotel near Mombasa is blown up by a car bomb. A simultaneous rocket attack on an Israeli airliner fails. A statement – purportedly from al-Qaeda – claims responsibility.

Kibaki victory

2002 December – Opposition presidential candidate Mwai Kibaki wins a landslide victory over Kanu rival Uhuru Kenyatta, ending Daniel arap Moi’s 24-year rule and Kanu’s four decades in power.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki
Moi’s successor, Mwai Kibaki, promised to tackle corruption

2003 January – Government bill proposes anti-corruption commission. Moi critic John Githongo appointed anti-graft czar.

2003 November – International Monetary Fund (IMF) resumes lending after three-year gap, citing anti-corruption measures.

2003 December – Government decides to grant former president Daniel arap Moi immunity from prosecution on corruption charges.

2004 March-July – Long-awaited draft of new constitution completed. Document requires parliament’s approval and proposes curbing president’s powers and creating post of prime minister. But deadline for enactment is missed.

2004 July-August – Food crisis, caused by crop failures and drought, dubbed “national disaster” by President Kibaki. UN launches aid appeal for vulnerable rural Kenyans.

2004 October – Kenyan ecologist Wangari Maathai wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

Controversy over jail conditions amid intense media coverage of inmate deaths at Meru jail in the east.

Ecologist and Nobel Peace Proze winner Wangari Maathai
Ecologist was first African woman to win Nobel Peace Prize

2005 January – Clashes over land and water rights leave more than 40 people dead.

2005 February – Corruption takes centre stage when it is claimed that graft has cost Kenya $1bn under Kibaki. Leading anti-graft official John Githongo resigns. International donors voice unease.

2005 July – Raiders kill 76 villagers, most of them women and children, in the north-east. The massacre is blamed on a rival clan.

Parliament approves a draft constitution after days of violent protests in Nairobi over aspects of the draft which demonstrators say give too much power to in the president’s hands.

Constitution spurned

2005 November-December – Voters reject a proposed new constitution in what is seen as a protest against President Kibaki. The president replaces his cabinet; some nominees reject their appointments.

2006 January – Government says four million people in the north need food aid because of a drought which the president calls a “national disaster”.

2006 January-February – Government ministers are linked to a corruption scandal involving contracts for a phantom company. One of them, Finance Minister David Mwiraria, resigns and says allegations against him are false.

2006 March – Armed police, acting on government orders, raid the offices and presses of the Standard group, one of Kenya’s leading media companies.

2006 April – Three days of national mourning are declared after an aircraft carrying several prominent politicians crashes in the north.

2006 April – Visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao signs a contract allowing China to prospect for oil off the Kenyan coast. His African tour has focused on trying to satisfy China’s hunger for energy and raw materials.

Somali refugees

2006 October – UN says some 35,000 Somalis escaping drought, Islamist rule and looming conflict have arrived in Kenyan camps since early 2006.

Kenyan family flees street violence
Hundreds were killed in unrest that followed the disputed 2007 polls

2006 November – December – Regional flooding renders thousands homeless. Some 100,000 Somali refugees cut off by floodwaters in the north-east are supplied by air drops.

2007 May – A Kenya Airways plane with 114 people on board crashes in Cameroon.

2007 December – Presidential elections. President Kibaki claims victory and a second term in office, prompting a wave of unrest. Opposition says polls were rigged.

Opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) wins most seats in the parliamentary election.

Post-election clashes

2008 January – Post-election violence kills more than 1,500, including an MP.

2008 February – Former UN chief Koffi Annan brokers talks between President Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga, which lead to signing of a power-sharing deal.

2008 April – Mr Kibaki and Mr Odinga agree cabinet list. The 40-member cabinet is Kenya’s largest and costliest ever.

2008 October – Report into post-election clashes calls for international tribunal to try those implicated in violence. Many political leaders are reluctant to implement the commission of inquiry’s recommendations, with some arguing that prosecutions could trigger further clashes between communities.

2008 December – Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) accuses seven current and former MPs of taking illegal allowances worth $250,000.

2009 July – Kenya’s cabinet announces that it will not set up a special tribunal over last year’s post-election violence, and will use local courts instead.

2009 August – Visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticises Kenya for failing to investigate the deadly violence after the 2007 election.

Kenya says that at least 10 million people, or one third of the population, are in need of food aid. The government mobilises the military to distribute food, water and medicines to areas hit hardest by drought.

2009 November – Kenya publishes a draft constitution which would cut the president’s powers and put the prime minister in charge of routine government business, fo

January 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Solar eclipse photos

All these photographs were taken at the Nairobi National Park

Big thanks to Peter Greste who took some of the best photos

And for sharing such an awesome moment with me.

January 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

When guilty use the finger

I love this story – and the photographer deserves an award.

When caught with 107 fake credit cards, just use the finger

A man who claims to be a Russian was arrested in Nairobi on Thursday after he was found withdrawing money from an automated teller machine (ATM) while in possession of 107 fake bank cards.

January 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Solar Eclipse here we come

Solar Eclipse Glasses

You can’t afford to damage your eyes while watching the awesome solar eclipse tomorrow. Buy a pair of welding glasses (Ksh 200 at most hard ware stores – test them first by looking around and towards the sun – it should be very dark glass) or follow these tips

January 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 1 Comment

Kenyan journalist-speak

Kenyan journalists must have all trained at the same school of journalism where they earned their MC’s – Master of  Cliches.

President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga Yesterday held “closed door meetings” of their parties to “hammer out party positions on new law ahead of negotiations. Meanwhile “heavy rains pound various parts of the country”.

Here are some of our favourite cliches.

Wrongful shootings by police –  “killed in  a shoot out, unclear if he was felled by police bullet or if carjackers shot him”

Exra-judicial police killings of suspects – “Carjacker was gunned down”

Impersonators – “masquerading as a tax official”

Illegal search of suspects house – “Tobacco, pillows, knife and fork, and a kitchen sink were also found in the mans house”

Lobbying –  “angling to get a foothold”

Investigating fraud – “unravel theft”

While cliches allow editors to recycle about 50% of all phrases each day, journalists reserve the best chiches for themselves whenever the Media Act is discussed.

Lets be clear, the new media legislation aims ban on offensive language and glorification of violence. Sounds good no? No? Not according to journalists who go overboard on the issue describing it as  “anti democratic, narrow minded, gagging the media, fundamentally violating the enjoyment of Kenyan citizens,  muzzling the media, and contravening the right to freedom of expression and conscience of, and free press”

I think I love this new law – finally something to stop Caroline Mutoko and gang from gay bashing and spreading homophobic hate and violence.

January 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments