A full time employee by day and a farmer in the evenings and weekends, Pheonah is ably juggling both! This is her story.
The work place as we know is where we spend the most productive time of our working lives. It is also a place of immense growth and learning, if we choose to learn. One of the SNV Uganda staff Pheonah Omach has chosen to learn. Every work day she is in the office by 7am where she dons on her work hat as the Human Resources & Operations Manager for SNV Uganda. At the end of the work day, Pheonah takes off her HR hat and reverts back to her farming lifestyle. You see, Pheonah has a secret passion – farming. Living on a one acre piece of land in Buwate, one of the suburbs around Kampala, Pheonah and her husband explored ways to optimise their land and make additional revenue. They decided to rear chicken for eggs as well as for meat.
Their enterprise while promising however, soon became a source of irritation not only to her family but her workers who month after month would leave after being hired. Her chicken droppings were stinking up the home and although she was constantly ferrying the droppings to her gardens the smell was starting to overwhelm them. Being familiar with the biogas work that SNV Uganda is doing, Pheonah approached the biogas team in 2016 to explore alternative ways of managing her chicken droppings.
“I want to grow my farming enterprise, but how do I deal with the accumulated chicken droppings, she asked the energy team. By then the only bio digester being marketed by the team was the fixed dome bio-digesters which necessitated more space than she had available at her home. With no solution in site, Pheonah opted to dig a pit where she could dispose her chicken droppings before taking it to her gardens as an interim measure. This worked well but the smell and flies remained their constant companions and the pit would fill up very often.
In early 2018 the idea of using biobolsa (an alternative cylindrical, prefabricated, flexible and high quality biodigester specifically designed for small- and medium-sized farms) was introduced to her by the energy team. At first Pheonah was hesitant about the idea given the limited space she had in her compound for any kind of digester. Her reluctance however was soon overcome when the biogas engineer visited her home and assured her that the space available was enough to put up the biobolsa BB6 Model, a much smaller model that could still use up all the chicken droppings and provide her with enough gas for cooking. In April 2018 with an investment of 2.18 million UGX, Pheonah became the proud owner of the biobolsa digester. Not only is she able to dispose off her chicken waste with ease, but her home environment has become a more pleasant place to live in now that the smell is gone. Pheonah uses 50% of the bio-slurry (a natural fertiliser and by product from the bio digester) in her vegetable garden where she grows Sukuma wiki (collard greens), cauliflower, dodo (amaranth) and cabbages and sells the rest to her farming friends. She is optimistic about generating more income from the sale of her bio slurry given its increasing demand from her friends.
Today Pheonah has an all year round supply of vegetables from her garden with more to spare which she is constantly ‘donating’ to friends and staff alike.
With the biogas generated from her plant she constructed a second kitchen that operates fully on biogas and is reserved for the preparation of food for her five dogs and her farm workers. In just four months, Pheonah has reduced on her charcoal use from 2.5 bags of charcoal per month to 1 sack per month, saving her approximately 110,000 UGX every month. Her bio-digester has also become a source of fun for her two boys who find it enjoyable to push the feedstock in it when they are not in school.
Pheonah is far from settled however. She wants to green her entire compound and also wants the energy team to add a pump to the digester so that it can pump the slurry directly to her gardens without her having to ferry it. Knowing how far she has come, it is only a matter of time before she achieves this as well.
By Peace Kansiime, Energy Advisor & Project Manager ABPP
For more about the Africa Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPPII)