Momentum for Change: Cows to Kilowatts - Anaerobic Bio-digestion of Abattoir Waste Generates Zero Emission and Creates Sustainable Bio-Energy and Bio-Fertiliser in Africa


Focus area: Mitigation
Location: Dagoretti, Ibadan, Nigeria
Established: August 2003

The Cows to Kilowatts model pioneered a new model of waste management that treats slaughterhouse effluent at the source and converts harmful greenhouse gases into clean energy through social enterprise. The innovation deploys a cutting-edge anaerobic fixed film bioreactor technology to treat abattoir waste and generate biogas more efficiently than conventional biodigester technologies. This also reduces water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and provides a sustainable and cheap source of clean energy and bio-fertilizer. The model also leapfrogged the need for effective governmental regulation for waste treatment by offering profitable solution.

The flagship bioreactor dubbed "Cows to Kilowatts" is located at Ibadan, the largest indigenous city in Tropical Africa. About 1000 heads of cows are slaughtered daily with the waste discharged directly into open drains. The 3000m3 bioreactor was designed to capture 1,800m3 of methane per day and generating 1MW of electricity for power starved poor communities and with emission reduction of 0.2MT of CO2 per year. The captured methane drives gas generators to provide electricity for power starved poor communities. The sludge from the reactor is upgraded and used as environmentally safe organic fertilizer for low income farmers. This result is more efficient fertilization of farm lands against chemical fertilizers and reduces non-point source water pollution.

The Cows to Kilowatts innovation was announced as 2009 Technology Pioneer of the World Economic Forum, Geneva, Switzerland and celebrated at the 2009 World Economic Forum Annual meeting at Davos, Switzerland. This is considered a high level recognition as 2009 mark the 10th Anniversary of the technology pioneer award program and the very first time in ten years that an African innovation would be selected for such recognition. The innovation also emerged as 2009 Technology Award Laureate and Prize Winner of the Technology Museum of Innovation, San Jose, California, USA. and and 2010 Member of the Clinton Global Initiative.

Mitigation / Adaptation


Potential for scaling-up and replication

The size of the bioreactor is 3000m3 designed to capture 1,800m3 of methane per day and generating about 1MW of electricity for power starved poor communities and with emission reduction of about 0.2MT of CO2 per year.

In addition, the plant produces 1,500 litres of organic fertiliser per day. The predominantly poor families benefit from the energy because it constitutes a cleaner alternative to other commonly used energy sources. At significantly lower cost than currently available energy sources, it reduces indoor air pollution and associated health hazards in poor communities. The bio-fertiliser replaces chemical fertiliser and results in more efficient fertilization and less loss of nutrients for low-income farmers and less non-point source water pollution. Chemical fertilizers pollute surface water sources with resultant toxic effects on human and aquatic life.

The biogas plant generates several positive environmental, economic and social impacts. The innovation abates water pollution and mitigates greenhouse gas emission which is critical because of its human health impacts, impact on communities, climate, agriculture, portable water supplies and the ecology of aquatic life that are crucial sources of food which poses threats to human existence.

Reduction in pollution of surface and groundwater sources leading to improved ecosystem and human health especially the urban poor.

There is no waste treatment facility for abattoirs in Nigeria. Abattoir waste dump pollute groundwater sources. In addition, the wastewater from abattoirs is discharged directly into nearby river bodies with severe ecosystem health. Odour from the wastes also interferes with the host communities. The zero emission biogas technology treats the wastewater with the sludge used as organic fertilizer. Hence, no waste would be discharged into the environment. This result is measured in improved human and ecosystem health using epidemiological dose indicators and water quality parameters.

The product of anaerobic digestion from cassava waste is a mixed gas called biogas which composed of methane and carbon-dioxide. Reducing methane emissions has many important health, energy, safety, economic and environmental benefits. Thus, the collection and utilization of methane provides a valuable, clean-burning energy source that improves quality of life in local communities, generates revenue and improves living standards.                    

The biogas would be used as low cost, safe and reliable sustainable green energy. Unlike kerosene lamps, which are costly, inefficient, poor quality, often hazardous and the highest cause of infant mortality in Africa. The utilization of biogas for power leads to improved human health and decreased infant mortality. This impact is measured by the number of household with access to the improved energy source.

The biogas plant application has proven to provide lasting, relatively cheap and environmentally sound and green eco-solution to organic waste management challenge in developing economies. Hence, there is enormous potential for growth and replication across poor communities in developing economies since environmental pollution caused by organic waste and slaughterhouse in particular is not a Nigerian specific problem but rather a problem faced by countries worldwide which is fostering a global human health tragedy.
Moreover, biogas plant technology is not a slaughterhouse waste treatment specific technology but rather a technology applicable to other industrial sectors generating organic pollutants. Hence, it is applicable to several other agro-processing industries and could be implemented in most developing countries of the world.

Many other cities across the world are facing similar environmental and health challenges from untreated slaughterhouse waste. The "cows to kilowatts" initiative carries a great potential for further roll-out and replication.