Zimbabwe’s rural dwellers turn to biogas for energy

Zimbabwe’s rural dwellers turn to biogas for energy

[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.