The bio-digester: a rewarding investment

The bio-digester: a rewarding investment

A head of a family of 12, Shume Deyas, annually used to spend Ethiopian Birr (ETB) 10,585 for fuelwood and kerosene and ETB 13,260 for chemical fertiliser.

On one blessed day in 2008, he attended an awareness rising meeting at the Adaa Office of Agriculture on bio-digester and its multiple benefits. The video film supported testimonies from biogas users showed him the changes the technology could bring in a farmer’s household.

He did not want to think twice, before he volunteered to become one of the first bio-digester users in Adea woreda, Oromia region, Ethiopia. From the description about the technology, he has learnt that the dung from his 14 livestock will be more than the requirement for the 8m3 bio-digester.

“Bio-digester is a rewarding investment. Of all its benefits, I am gaining much from the bio-slurry. Covering six-and-a-half-hectares of land with compost form bio-slurry, I am producing high value crops such as wheat, tomato, chickpea and teff (a grain grown extensively in Ethiopia to prepare staple food called injera). Recently, from selling of tomatoes produced on a one and half hectares of land, my family earned ETB 596,000” explained Shume.

The bio-digester: a rewarding investment

In June 2008, he had invested ETB 4,500 for labourers, cement, sand, gravel and stone. The National Biogas Programme of Ethiopia (NBPE), part of the African Biogas Programme Partnership (ABPP), provided investment contribution. In July 2008, in the presence of representatives of NBPE, woreda (district) officials and other guests, the first demonstration bio-digester became operational. According to Shume’s wife, Workitu Gelaso the digester is operational to date.

His experience in bio-digester use has created opportunities for Shume to share his experience to experts and farmers from different parts of the country. He not only shared his experience, but also he learnt different skills. For example, visiting Afar region, he has learnt the benefit of water harvesting for irrigation farming. This helped him to survive the effects of El Niño, and produce irrigated tomato in 2016.

His decision to pioneer in bio-digester use also made him a preferred advisor and promoter of sustainable use of the technology. Biogas stakeholders invite Shume to raise the awareness of community on the multiple benefits of the bio-digester. Generally, he has convinced 26 farmers to invest on bio-digester. Neighbours also consult him when their bio-digester is not functioning. These services helped him to take the possible precautions to prevent his digester from malfunction.

“We want our bio-digester to last for forty years. It is a source of our comfort and relief. I am relieved from collecting fuelwood and cooking in a smoky kitchen. Bio-digester is my health insurance. I would have been happier if the Programme brings the biogas injera stove” said Workitu, Shume’s wife. NBPE has already tested two models of biogas injera stove and got good result. The market trial and roll-out for one biogas injera stove model will follow soon.

Shume applies liquid bio-slurry on perennial crops like mango and compost made with bio-slurry on field crops like wheat, teff, chick pea and tomato. He said using bio-slurry as organic fertiliser, increased production and improved the quality and taste of his product, and increased saving from chemical fertiliser. He has also created job for two employees. These employees take care of compost and bio-slurry management under the leadership and close follow up of Shume.

The benefits from all these, in addition to the cooking and lighting, energised him to become one of the best farmers in his woreda. He has started to work with his children; and is planning to form a group with his seven children and invest his money on other high value crops and markets.

“I am getting old. I should organise my children so that they support themselves and become farmer investors. The 6.5 ha of land has all the important infrastructures to enable us produce three times a year” said Shume.

NBPE is implemented by the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity (MoWIE) and co-funded by Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (GoE) and Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Dutch Government (DGIS). It is getting technical support from SNV Netherlands Development Organisation is receiving support in fund management from Humanist Institute for International Development Cooperation (HIVOS).

So far the programme has succeeded in constructing more than 13,500 bio-digesters. According to the Biogas Users Survey (2015), 84.25% of bio-digester owners are using bio-slurry as organic fertiliser.

This article was initially published by Africa Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPP).