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Zimbabwe’s rural dwellers turn to biogas for energy
  • Zimbabwe’s rural dwellers turn to biogas for energy

Copyright: Dieter Telemans / Panos

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  • Rural communities in Zimbabwe are building biogas digesters

  • The initiative is part of a nationwide effort to boost renewable energy supply

  • The use of biogas digesters is environmentally-friendly

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[HARARE] Rural dwellers in Zimbabwe are adopting a simple technology to develop clean, affordable and easily accessible renewable energy from biomass.
 
The Domboshava Community Development Association (DCDA), which was formed in April 2014 in Zimbabwe by rural dwellers, is one of the community groups that have embraced the initiative that enables members to build biogas digesters in their homes to generate energy.

“We use waste liquid discharged by the biogas digesters as organic fertilisers, making life easier and affordable.”

Nyasha Marimo, Domboshava Community Development Association

 

Ian Makone, the association’s technical advisor, told SciDev.Net in an interview last month (14 January) that each DCDA member contributes US$15 monthly that is saved towards the construction of a biogas digester. Each digester costs US$600 to build.
 
“This initiative will enable everyone in the DCDA to have a digester at their homestead. Since our inception, we have managed to build 23 digesters for 23 members,” says Makone, noting that the association has 30 members.
 
The US Embassy in Zimbabwe, through its Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Program, provided almost US$8,500 to the DCDA in 2014 to buy raw materials for the construction of the digesters.
 
Makone, a trained builder, has been instrumental in the construction of the digesters.
 
“Firewood has become a scarce commodity in this village and biogas has eased the burden,” says Makone, noting that the initiative is promoting community development.
 
SciDev.Net witnessed community members constructing a biogas digester in Parirehwa village, Domboshava, Mashonaland East province last month (14 January).  Fixed dome biogas digesters are constructed underground using bricks, cement and sand.
 
The biogas digesters comprise an inlet chamber, main dome expansion chamber and slurry outlet for liquid waste. “Most rural communities depend on firewood for energy, but with biogas we use readily available organic materials such as cow dung, pig, chicken or human waste,” says Blessing Jonga, a biogas expert and consultant based in Harare, Zimbabwe.
 
According to Jonga, so far about 300 rural households and institutions are using this form of energy in Zimbabwe.
 
Zimbabwe’s Environment Management Agency (EMA) says that 50million trees are disappearing from forests in the country every year.
 
“Most rural communities depend on firewood for energy but with biogas we use readily available organic materials,” Jonga says.
 
Nyasha Marimo, a rural dweller, tells SciDev.Net biogas energy produced from the digesters has saved her from walking long distances to fetch firewood. “We use waste liquid discharged by the biogas digesters as organic fertilisers, making life easier and affordable,” Marimo says.
 
The biogas is used for heating, lighting and refrigeration, Jonga explains.
The Rural Electrification Agency (REA) in Zimbabwe, with a mandate for the rapid, equitable diffusion of energy in rural areas, has been providing biogas energy to local institutions, restaurants and households.
 
Johannes Nyamayedenga, REA public relations manager, says biogas is environment-friendly, and is a sustainable source of energy. He adds that this year restaurants at selected communities in the country will be able to use biogas provided by the REA.
 
Jonga touts other benefits of using biogas digesters.
 
“Most rural households do not afford chemical fertilisers hence biogas offers a very clean intervention in the form of organic fertilisers,” says Jonga. “Pig farmers were having waste disposal challenges and were in constant problems with the EMA, but a digester helps as a waste management technology.” 
 
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.
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