What are the practical possibilities for small-scale enterprise in Mbuiru?

The section examines the potential of the energy intervention for removing constraints on the achievement of people's livelihood priorities. The community will not be in a position to use electricity from the scheme for lighting their homes via a direct distribution system due to legislative restrictions on the sale of power.

As stated earlier, Kenya Power and Lighting Company is the only body authorised to transmit and distribute power. Any other party that generates power can sell it to Kenya Power and Lighting Company, unless the generated power is for the exclusive use of the generating body. They will, however, be able to use electricity for charging batteries to provide light and powering, for example, TVs and radios. Electricity from the hydropower scheme will be transmitted to the commercial and social centre.

The intention is that the community will run several micro-enterprises. Provided markets are thoroughly researched and business plans made, these enterprises could help provide people with new capabilities, including technological capabilities, and generate income, reducing community vulnerability. The availability of power is expected to trigger demand for training, especially in technical areas such as welding and machine operation, as well as business management and bookkeeping. Recalling the projected 14 kW limit to power as a guide to possible combinations of activities, enterprises earmarked as possibilities include:

  • Hand weaving, tailoring and basket making. The provision of electric light would increase the hours that could be spent on theses activities or the flexibility of operating times. The estimated power demand is only around 200 Watts.
  •   Oil processing. Pressing sunflower seeds to produce oil and 'cake' (for livestock feed) is potentially a very lucrative business. Estimated power demand from 3 to 10kW, depending on scale of production.
  • Flour grinding/ milling. A mill powered by micro-hydro generated electricity is expected to provide a better, cheaper service than the current diesel-powered mill. Power demand of possible mills ranges from 3 to 10kW  
  • Battery charging. There is a growing market for charging batteries as more and more people come to own TVs, hi-fi, radios and cassette players. Customers for this service may come from as far afield as Marimanti, 20 km away. Power demand is 1kW or less.  
  • Refrigeration for Health Centres. A potential commercial option for the community scheme. There are two health centres within 2 km of the proposed site from where power will be transmitted. The power requirement of each clinic ranges from 3 to 12kW
  • Tobacco curing. This is an option for using excess energy generated when the load factor is low, especially at night. It is technically more efficient to locate the curing facility near the powerhouse. Power available will depend on the plant load factor.
  • Irrigation. This is a service that can only be carried out if there is sufficient surplus water. Irrigation schemes require licensing by the Government (for river water extraction). Water could be pumped to irrigate adjacent farms and kitchen gardens and thus increase food production for consumption or sale. The estimated power required is 1kW or less.  
  • Micro-enterprises. Welding, wood-work shops, barbers shops and telephone booths have all been suggested as possibilities. Power required is up to 5kW.
  • Water pumping for drinking water supply. Planning ahead, Mbuiru community are installing pipes in anticipation of the micro-hydro scheme. Water pumping requires less than 5kW  

    Apart from the enterprises themselves, secondary - or spin-off - employment is likely in the processing, packaging and distribution of goods, as well as in supply and support services. For new enterprises to be successful, Mbuiru community will be obliged to interact with government institutions, organisations and the private sector in order to meet legislative demands, produce goods of the appropriate quality to suit markets, and for diverse other reasons. Such interaction, provided it is supported in the initial stages, is expected to develop and empower community institutions and organisations themselves.

    Micro-hydro electricity

    Before you begin

    Web References

    Background to Kenya

    The Mbuiru Community

    Practical possibilities for small scale enterprise



    Vulnerable Groups



    Energy Supply





    Potential markets

    Existing small enterprises

    Design possibilities