Zainab believes all women are leaders and that biogas contributes to their empowerment.
Zainab, a farmer and biogas user in Manafa district in eastern Uganda, has been a biogas ambassador since SNV launched the biogas programme in 2009. "The first time I saw fire coming out of my gas stove I was very excited that I started jumping with joy. I had never imagined that something as insignificant as cow dung could give me gas for cooking and light for my house. This was a gift that I could not keep to myself, I had to share it with my neighbours" Zainab recalls. This marked the beginning of Zainab’s journey in promoting biogas in Manafa district. Up to now, Zainab has successfully mobilised over 150 farmers in Manafa to use biogas in their homes.
Once the excitement of cooking with gas waned, Zainab set her attention back to her favourite 'hobby' – agriculture. "Before I installed the biogas digester in my home, I was struggling with my crops. Because of the poor soils, my banana and coffee yields were always poor." From a two-acre coffee plantation, Zainab would harvest a paltry 70kgs of coffee beans. Through the Biogas programme's extension service, Zainab and her fellow farmers were trained on how to use bioslurry (a by-product of biogas) as an organic fertiliser. "When the slurry began to flow, I started carrying it to my coffee and banana gardens and I immediately noticed a positive change in my crops" Zainab explained. Today Zainab’s farming business is thriving, on average she is able to harvest 800kgs of coffee from her 2 acre coffee plantation and earn 4,800,000 UGX (1,060 Euros) per season. Also her banana yields improved. Before she used to sell a bunch of ‘matoke’ (local bananas) at 5,000 UGX (1.4 Euros) while now she is able to sell it at 25,000 - 30,000 UGX (7- 9 Euros). Zainab believes that using bioslurry is the only way for farmers to improve their crop yields in a sustainable and food-secure way.
“Women are natural leaders and their leadership is not limited to the household" Zainab explains. For this reason in 2016, together with 11 women leaders for the same district, she formed a savings and cooperative society called "Bubulo Women Cooperative Society". Starting as women cooperative to raise money to support women in Manafa district, the cooperative is now including men among its members and today it counts a total of 150 members. With the biogas loan as one of their flagship products, the cooperative attracted an interest-free loan of 15 million UGX (1,060 Euros) from the Africa Biogas Partnership Programme II (ABPPII) to boost biogas lending in the district. Slowly Zainab’s dream to see all farmers in Manafa district using biogas is becoming true.