Cow Dung Proving to Be a Godsend

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Biogas digesters installed for three families in the Okondjatu area have tremendously reduced the costs of running households. The three digesters, installed as part of a pilot project of the Outase Biogas Project in the Okakarara constituency, have not only realised a drop in the collection of firewood but have also cut down the amount of money the families once used for gas. Most rural areas that have no electricity normally use gas for cooking, cooling and lighting. But among the three households in three areas in the constituency, namely, Okanungu, Ekuenje and Okatemba Kotjindanda, this has become a thing of the past. Trips to collect firewood have reduced from five to two per week while the amount the families used for a gas tank, which could cost them in the region of N$400, has also gone down to about N$100, for gas that the families keep in case of eventualities. This has made other communal farmers salivate for the digesters, which at the beginning were met with some resistance. Ali Katusuva, a beneficiary of a biogas digester in the constituency, said his family of four does not buy gas anymore, saving around N$4 500 in transport and gas. “It helps us a lot in cooking, freezing food and also lighting,” said Katusuva. The family still collects firewood but only for making fire outside, as per Herero tradition. The biogas is a product of the anaerobic fermentation of organic materials. Coordinator of the project, Jackson Hindjou, told a conference on renewable energy recently that communities have welcomed the technology as it suits their living standards. It is also environmentally friendly. Hindjou also said that the farmers were interested in the project and wanted to be part and parcel of it. Apparently, some farmers are keen to part with their cash to have the biogas digesters installed at their homesteads. Using biogas reduces firewood and charcoal use. Since it uses cow dung, further greenhouse gas emissions are avoided. It also gives the vegetation a breathing space because it is under less pressure as a result of the decrease in the use of firewood in the rural areas. “Biogas can reduce deforestation and land degradation in both communal and commercial areas,” said Hindjou. Health-wise, the use of biogas improves air quality, as there is no more use of paraffin, and the inhalation of fumes especially by women who do most of the cooking. Biogas also produces organic manure which can be used for sustainable agriculture. The pilot phase of the project ended in December last year, including the phase aimed at gauging the acceptance of the community and also raising awareness on how the technology operates, how it is used and also how it is constructed. The project is now looking for other funds to be able to expand to other areas within the constituency before taking the technology to other regions. The Outase project is meant to complement the Govern-ment’s efforts, which started a biogas project in 2000. When well maintained, a biogas plant which costs around N$10 000 to construct can last for 50 years. A three cubic meter plant requires 75 g of cow dung and 75 l of water per day and it can cook for eight to 12 persons. A family would need a minimum of seven to nine cattle to produce the cow dung. Apart from cow, pig, horse and other types of dung, human waste and other agricultural wastes such as wheat and rice straws can be used to produce the gas. Some of the institutions that are involved in the project are the UNDP, the GEF Small Grants Programme, the ministries of Environment and Tourism; Mines and Energy; Agriculture, Water and Forestry; the Desert Research Foundation, local conservancies, Namibia Nature Foundation and the Danish Embassy.