A passionate and smiling Lilian Lelei sums up her engagement as a mason in three words, “biogas is real.” Working as a mason since 2005, Lilian started her own biogas construction company six years later employing four other masons to her now expanding business. But Lilian is not an ordinary mason in the field; she is a trained biogas mason and entrepreneur, the new breed pushing renewable energy in Kenya a notch higher.
Constructing four biogas plants a month since she started, she has over 20 functioning plants to her name in the North Rift regions of Tranzoia and Uasin Gishu counties. Her target is to build between 30-40 plants per month. And with the passion that drives her marketing of biogas technology, meeting that target is only a short height to scale. Lilian is one of the 280 masons trained under the Kenya National Domestic Biogas Programme (KENDBIP).
The ABPP is a renewable energy programme that supports use of biogas among domestic users in six African countries. It is a partnership between Hivos, SNV and the Dutch ministry of foreign affairs, DGIS. Co-funded by SNV and DGIS, the programme is managed by Hivos as fund managers and partnership coordinator. The five year programme, started in 2009, is expected to have constructed over 70,000 plants in six countries – Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Senegal.
Working closely with other masons in the area, Lilian has created a successful network that sees her never run short of construction contracts. “They will call me and cede some plants to me when they are overstretched. I also reciprocate. Our goal is not just to construct as many plants, but to ensure they are functional and meet the programme specification and quality standards, otherwise I will keep repeating the same plant and lose clients” she says. A one year guarantee is given to all plants constructed under KENDBIP.
At 30years, and a student of theology at Sitotuet Bible College in Kericho, Lilian plans to expand her biogas construction enterprise to other regions outside North Rift in the coming year. “ I am not studying theology to abandon this industry, am doing it to know God better and get skills to relate with the people at the grassroots, and understand their needs even better,” she smilingly reassures to remain a mason and businesswoman in a programme that meets her tuition and personal needs. Empowerment of women like Lilian, through gender mainstreaming, is part of the programme. Deliberate efforts to maximize benefits among women at all levels are made through training and capacity building.
Encouraging more women to join the programme, Lilian sees the benefits of biogas as more empowering to women and children through sanitation and reduction of workloads, while providing clean and renewable energy. Improvement of agriculture through use of bio-slurry in the fields is another added benefit provided by biogas technology.
And there are no regrets for this mason, marketer, business lady and theologian whose motto, everything is possible, sees her traverse a territory many women have shied away from. “I want to look back and say my people have benefited,” she signs off hurrying to seal another construction contract in Marakwet, an area she rules as the biogas queen.