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"I wish to grow big. I am in the process of setting up a small enterprise Addisu Biogas Construction Materials Supplier to provide construction materials."

Dropping out of school Addisu Meteku left home due to family problems and lived on the street for more than two months.  At 14 he started working in a construction site until six years later he was recommended by his bosses to take on training in domestic biogas construction by the National Biogas Program of Ethiopia (NBPE).

The National Biogas Program of Ethiopia – implemented in partnership between the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy (MoWIE), the Humanist Institute for International Development Cooperation (HIVOS) and SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, with financial support from the Government of the Netherlands – aims to develop a commercially viable domestic biogas sector.

Addisu said, "After ten days of biogas masonry training, trainees started the construction of digesters. So far I have constructed more than 100 biogas digesters."

Since 2010 the price of construction material as well as the wage for the assistants and plumbers is escalating. However, people have started realising the benefits of biogas and this increases the masons’ passion to remain in the sector.

"I was brought up seeing my mother cooking in a smoky kitchen and my elder brothers studying by kerosene lamp. This business increased my desire to contribute towards helping rural farmers to have improve household lighting and cooking stoves."

Addisu works in East Shoa Zone Dogda Woreda in Oromia Region, a woreda that is famous for its well–to–do farmers as a result of irrigation–supported agriculture. These farmers want to minimise their fertiliser expenses by applying bio-slurry as organic fertiliser. 

The Biomass Expert of the Dugda Woreda Mines and Energy Bureau, Wondemu Kushu, said, "The farmers are our promoters. When a farmer in a village purchases a biogas digester, we encourage him to invite his colleagues and friends. The masons as well as the Mines and Energy experts promote the technology."

The farmers approach the experts and these experts link the masons with the farmers. After quality assurance supervision by the Bureau of Mines and Energy experts, users are introduced to the various aspects of biogas digester use and the appliances; receiving training on plant operation.

The ever-growing demand left Addisu with no choice but to employ assistants. Playing the role of supervisor, he is now leading three masons and six assistants.

"I wish to grow big. I am in the process of setting up a small enterprise Addisu Biogas Construction Materials Supplier to provide construction materials and appliances such as dome pipes, stoves and spare parts for the biogas digesters." He added, "I have made arrangements with plumbers to get a sustainable supply of dome pipes".

Establishment of Biogas Construction Companies is one of the main components of the NBPE and requires considerable effort by responsible bodies. Countries advanced in biogas are strengthening the sector through BCC associations and by contributing to ensure sector sustainability by building the capacity of companies, providing quality control and putting in place agreed standards and promotion in order to maintain the development of the sector and to contribute at policy level.

Woreda Biomass Expert, Wondemu observed, “Such companies will reduce the burden of quality control for the energy experts. If such companies flourish, it will be an enormous contribution to the energy, agriculture and health sectors, and in generating income from bio–slurry as well.”

To ensure sustainability of the sector, NBPE has trained hundreds of potential local masons in entrepreneurial skills. Meanwhile, at woreda level, supervisors coordinate these masons to form groups. In addition, the emerging biogas construction enterprises will soon start to benefit from the Government of Ethiopia’s established credit scheme.

In the second phase of the programme (2014-2017) while creating a commercially viable domestic biogas sector, the programme also aims to increase agricultural production through the application of bio-slurry, to improve household health and sanitation while at the same time increasing employment and income, and contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

In this second phase more emphasis is being placed on private sector development, the potential for alternative implementing partners in addition to NBPE, and on result based finance modalities.

An additional 20,000 bio-digesters are planned to be constructed in Amhara, Oromia, SNNPR and Tigray during this four-year period.

Expanding the biogas sector