Originally published on September 5, 2014.
Across Africa, energy poverty plagues nearly 600 million people. Those living in Sub-Saharan Africa are the worst off, with nearly 7 out of every 10 people lacking access to electricity. In Kenya alone, only 28 percent of households — most of which are in urban areas — are connected to the national power grid. As traditional energy sources become scarcer and more costly, rural households remain trapped in low income generating activities; while agribusinesses struggle to invest in production and processing activities that could boost farm productivity, increase profits and improve food security.
In Kenya, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is exploring the potential for applying geothermal heat to deliver energy that will enable farmers and food processors to increase production and improve food security for people in the region. In September 2012, USAID awarded the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA) with the VEGA/Powering African Agriculture Project (VEGA/PAA). Land O’Lakes International Development, a member of VEGA, leads the implementation of this project that will identify, commercialize and bring to scale innovative clean energy solutions for cutting-edge agricultural applications.
To achieve its goals, VEGA/PAA seeks to leverage private and public sector partnerships in order to improve farming and agro-processing. Land O’Lakes, in partnership with Winrock International and the Kenya Geothermal Development Company (GDC), launched the project’s exploratory efforts at one of Earth’s hottest spots for geothermal energy: the Great Rift Valley in Kenya.
This $4 million project has conducted pre-feasibility studies that analyze cost-effective means of extracting geothermal energy for agriculture-related processes, including:
- Drying tea, cereals and fruit;
- Providing heat for agro-processing facilities for animals, fruits and vegetables;
- Powering dairy pasteurization; and,
- Heating greenhouses and fish farms.
With the opportunities for geothermal direct use (DU) applications that the pre-feasibility studies have identified, GDC has resolved to commercialize geothermal DU by implementing four pilot projects: a dairy processing plant, a laundromat, a greenhouse, and an aquaculture project. VEGA/PAA is providing capacity-building technical assistance, advice, and training to enable GDC to design, implement and manage the current pilot projects.