To answer the increasing demands for sustainable energy in the world, there has been an influx of alternative renewable energy technologies in the energy market. One such technology is the use of biodigesters (also known as biogas plants) to produce biogas.
Biogas is a fuel that is made from the breakdown of organic matter which is also environmentally friendly as it leaves behind a small carbon print. Biogas is also useful as it can be used for cooking, heating, lighting and the by-product, bioslurry, can be used as an organic fertiliser. This energy source has been adopted and promoted by many governments, entrepreneurs and non-profit organisations as an affordable and sustainable answer to the energy crisis for many rural communities in developing countries.
Many stakeholders are already utilising this biogas technology and many more are developing innovative ways of using it to improve the lives of people around the world. In line with this movement, SNV commenced the Biogas for Productive Use: Milk Chilling project to help smallholder dairy farmers in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia improve their milk production, productivity and increase their incomes. The project aims to integrate smallholder dairy farmers into the formal milk value chain and reduce milk waste, which is caused by the lack of adequate milk chilling facilities. SNV Zambia commenced this project early this year, aiming to establish a market-based system for increasing dairy farmer’s access to this alternative energy. Through this project, SNV Zambia provides training to masons in bio-digester construction, operation and maintenance; develops sustainable market linkages between masons and dairy stakeholders who seek to procure the service; and supports the market system through working with credit institutions so that potential consumers have access to financial service providers. In parallel, the milk chiller prototype is being developed in Kenya and Tanzania and is ready to be launched in Zambia in 2015.
4th June, 2014 marked the completion of the technical training course for 25 masons who were trained in biodigester construction and maintenance. These 25 masons were drawn from Lusaka, Central, Southern and Copperbelt provinces and were presented with certificates of completion by SNV Zambia Country Director Dr. Sue Ellis, Renewable Energy Sector Leader Chanda Mongo, Biogas Project Leader Kenan Lungu and the Principal of Lusaka Vocational Training Centre, Phillip Mutale. The masons are the focal point of the project as they are trained to develop the biogas market in Zambia by promoting and building the technology, and selling their skills and services to farmers. As Dr. Sue Ellis said, “They are a solution to Zambia’s energy problem in rural areas where only 3% of the population have access to electricity.” For dairy farmers, who mostly live and farm in rural areas, the loss in earnings caused by the lack of energy is up to 50%.
A total of 42 masons, including one female mason, have been trained in bio-digester construction and marketing since 2012 and 8 demo plots have been constructed so interested small-holder farmers can witness the technology in action. SNV Zambia has also partnered with the Dairy Association of Zambia to improve market integration and access to services for small holder dairy farmers. The aim for this year is to enable at least 120 farmers to procure the biodigesters which will lay the foundation for the milk chilling technology that will be introduced next year.
Photo credit: Russell Watkins, DFID.