Beating deforestation with household biodigesters 

Deforestation rates are significant in Zambia, with approximately 300,000 hectares of forest cover lost per year

Deforestation rates are significant in Zambia, with approximately 300,000 hectares of forest cover lost per year. Wood extraction is one of the main drivers of deforestation and the loss of carbon stock from forests in the country.

The wood extracted is mainly used for charcoal and wood fuel (firewood) production. This is generally the case across Zambia, especially along the railway line running from Southern to Copperbelt Provinces. However, more recent studies show that this trend is shifting to the less urbanised provinces like North-Western and Northern provinces.

To address the challenge of over-reliance on wood fuels, SNV promotes access to renewable energy for households through biodigesters. Biodigester technology is an environmentally friendly technology that uses animal and other biodegradable waste converted into gas for kitchen and household use. The use of gas for cooking prevents deforestation, saves time, and prevents smoke inhalation and soot caused by firewood. This article follows the story of Irene Kasonde, a 49-year-old woman living in Mungwi district of Northern Province.

Irene has seven children, 4 of whom are in school. She heard about SNV from Households in Distress (HID), a catholic Non-governmental Organisation operating in the area. She was trained as a bricklayer by HID and was given pigs and chickens as part of the programme. After completing the training with HID, she was connected to SNV. At SNV, she continued her training on the use of biodigesters. ‘Our training taught us that cutting down trees causes deforestation, which is bad for our environment because it leads to poor rainfall and droughts,’ she said.

Irene using a biogas cookstove

Irene tending to her biodigester

Irene tending to her biodigester

Irene had a biodigester built at her home in February 2021. Before this, she traveled long distances to gather firewood for cooking. The use of firewood in the area has caused a reduction in the number of trees. Therefore, she had to travel further each day to get firewood making her tired and unable to prepare meals on time. The biodigester now saves her time and effort, freeing her to pursue other activities.

Irene has educated people in her community on the dangers of cutting down trees and has encouraged them to build biodigesters as an alternative. She plans to start using the bio-slurry for her garden in the future. In addition, she intends to increase her livestock and continue educating the community on the use of biogas as an alternative source of energy.

Written by: Nancy Malama, Communications Officer, SNV Zambia

Photos: SNV Zambia

More information: Susanne Hounsell, Energy Sector Leader - shounsell@snv.org