Kenyan Comics and Flexi Biogas: New Media for New Technology
In Kenya, IFAD has matched an innovative new technology with an innovative new multimedia campaign. In order to raise awareness of new Flexi Biogas systems, IFAD teamed up with Emmy Award-winning Kenyan-based communication agency Well Told Story to reach young people and their families through comic strips, radio, and social media.
The partnership was made possible by IFAD's Initiative for Mainstreaming Innovation, funded by the UK Department of International Development, as part of a larger project called Making Biogas Portable: Renewable Technologies for a Greener Future. Flexi Biogas is a cheap alternative to traditional fixed-dome production systems, which gives more people access to biogas – a clean, renewable energy made from organic household waste.
In order to increase the project's reach, IFAD wanted to find a way to share information about the advantages of Flexi Biogas and fight the stigma biogas sometimes faces. IFAD consultant Silvia Sperandini reached out to Well Told Story, whose work she first encountered at the 2010 Agknowledge Africa Share Fair. She was fascinated by Well Told Story's multimedia approach and wanted to incorporate it into an IFAD-funded project.
"We wanted to bring it to IFAD and pilot its impact on our development interventions because no one was working on this at a project level," Sperandini explained.
With their comics, radio shows, and social media presence, Well Told Story reaches millions of young Kenyans each month – a huge potential audience for IFAD's message. Sperandini designed this km/communication component and it was managed by the coordinator of the Making Biogas Portable project, Karan Sehgal under the overall supervision of Antonio Rota, Senior Lead Specialist - Livestock.
Well Told Story worked to create a multimedia campaign highlighting the benefits of biogas in order to contribute to its adoption. By the end of the partnership, Well Told Story distributed 1.95 million comic books, aired three radio programmes on 26 FM stations, and hosted discussions on six social media pages receiving more than 80,000 views per month. Additionally, Well Told Story designed and printed hundreds of posters for display in local schools.
Well Told Story's programmes are immensely popular with young people, and the campaign generated substantial interest, as measured by the volume of texts sent to Well Told Story requesting more information. Yet the campaign did not immediately lead to increased sales of Flexi Biogas.
For Sehgal, however, that's ok. In his words, the goal of the campaign was "to set the scene for the future." It can be tough to break tradition, he noted, and traditional fuel subsidies can make renewable energies like biogas less competitive. But with Well Told Story's campaign promoting both the practical and environmental benefits of biogas, young Kenyans may be more willing to adopt Flexi Biogas systems or support other clean energies in the future.