Biogas – Transforming the lives of families in rural Ethiopia

October 2017

Blog

Travelling 70km from Addis Ababa on smooth, recently built roads, our surroundings quickly transform as we turn off onto a small rural road leading to the home of a cattle farmer Mr Aman and his wife, who live in a small two room house with one, school-going child. Their two older children have already left home and are either in employment or attending university.

The Aman family, who live in Tade Didima Village on the outskirts of the capital, are one of 18,000 families to date benefitting from the on-going National Biogas Programme of Ethiopia which is funded by the Ethiopian and Dutch Government with Hivos as a fund manager. The Programme supports the Government of Ethiopia's efforts to develop a country wide, commercially viable and market-oriented biogas sector.

On his farm, Mr Aman has installed a 6 cubic meter bio-digester, which is fed by the dung from his 7 cows. In addition, the bio digester is connected to the family’s toilet and gathers waste from there also. The digester produces 1.5 to 1.8 cubic meters of gas a day providing enough energy to meet the family’s cooking requirements and power a single gas lantern located in the family’s living area.

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The Aman Family home
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The biodigester

Mr Aman’s wife, a shy lady is cooking the ingredients for a local beer on an open fire in a smoky wooden outhouse when we arrive. This structure would have been used for cooking all the families’ meals before the introduction of biogas. To the naked eye, it is clear to see how dangerous this would be for his wife’s health and safety. The smoke was overpowering for us standing outside, let alone inhaling it in an enclosed space. Also, an open fire contained in a wooden structure – is a recipe for disaster!

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Mr Aman's wife

These days most of the family’s meals are cooked on a biogas stove in the main house with the exception of injera, an Ethiopian staple bread which is cooked a couple of times a week on a special large earthen pan with a diameter of close to 2 feet, or on a traditional open fire stove - In addition to the alcohol ingredient, which is another occasional occurrence. When we ask his wife what the benefits are for her of having biogas? She explains that nowadays she can cook in the main house on the gas stove and she doesn’t have to inhale the thick, damaging smoke as often. Also, she is able to cook breakfast quickly for her school going child, saving time in the morning.

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Mr Aman's wife cooks on the gas burner
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The burner fueled by biogas

In addition, the by-product of Biogas is bio slurry obtained from the bio-digester after the digestion of dung or other biomass. Mr Aman is now using bio slurry on his crops replacing expensive chemical fertilisers helping to maximise his biogas digester investment.

His wife brings us into the family’s living area and shows us a lantern - also powered by biogas which provides enough light in the evening to allow her son to study. Hopefully following in the footsteps of his older sibling who is already attending university. “We are very happy with the benefits our bio-digester brings” Mr Aman’s wife reiterates.

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The lantern powered by biogas

We ask - does she think that her older children will install bio-digesters in their own homes and use biogas? She responds with a wry smile and says – as all good mothers should - that the decision will be up to them. “However they can see how happy we are with biogas so maybe that will help to inform their decision.’ She adds.

This great work, facilitating access for rural families to biogas will continue under a new programme NBPE+ which is funded by the European Union and the Government of Ethiopia. SNV is the overall programme manager on behalf of the EU fund and provides technical assistance on the implementation.

For more information on our biogas activities in Ethiopia, - please contact Saroj Rai, srai@snv.org


 

Expert

Saroj Rai

Energy Sector Leader