Cambodian biogas programme celebrates milestone 15,000th biodigester

Cambodian biogas programme celebrates milestone 15,000th biodigester

"Now, I do not have to spend hours looking for firewood for cooking and the kitchen is much cleaner. My house also has light and my four children can study at night," says Mom Sokhom of Trapeang Kralanh village, the proud owner of Cambodia’s 15,000th biodigester plant. Hundreds of farmers in north-east Cambodia have benefitted in the same way from the Cambodian National Biodigester Programme (NBP).

"This programme started in 2006. Six years later, we can see that households have moved from poverty to low income status and even out of poverty," says Mrs. Lam Saoleng, who heads the national biodigester programme in Cambodia. “The latest figures show that over 70 per cent of new biodigester owners receive special investment credit and that the smallest biodigester is the most popular size. This indicates that the programme is now reaching the small farmers who have as few as two head of cattle”.

More than 90% of the rural population in Cambodia relies on traditional energy sources for cooking. Women and children in particular are exposed to harmful fumes when cooking with firewood. Since 2005, SNV in Cambodia has worked with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) to develop a commercially-viable biogas sector.

National workshop
The NBP in Cambodia celebrated its 15,000th biodigester during a workshop held in Phnom Penh on 15 March, 2012. Experts attending the event discussed the NBP’s progress to date and the development of carbon financing. Speaking at the event, MAFF Secretary of State H.E. Om Kimsir  said, "Lack of access to affordable, clean and modern energy is one of the main barriers to development and security in rural areas. For this reason, MAFF has declared NBP a priority programme.”

In his keynote address, H.E. Om Kimsir recognised the impact biodigesters have on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the importance of carbon financing for the long-term sustainability of the domestic biodigester sector in Cambodia.

Biogas User Survey
In 2012, NBP conducted its annual Biogas User Survey (BUS) to evaluate the impact of domestic biodigester installations on owner households. For the survey the experiences of 150 randomly selected households using biodigesters were gathered. The following key BUS findings were discussed:

  • Users strongly indicated the difficulty of fuel wood collection, before they invested in a plant. This observation should get  more prominence in NBP’s promotional activities as selling point for biodigesters;

  • Almost a quarter of the households didn’t clearly understand the biodigester construction contract and conditions provided by the construction companies. Therefore, it was recommended that biogas promoters and marketers have well-prepared and easy to understand materials to explain the investment procedure to farmers;

  • Some farmers found it difficult to utilise the bio-slurry in the liquid form due to long distances between the biodigester and their fields. It was discussed to include a composting hut for mixing slurry with organic matter in the biodigester package for better manageable substrate.  This is currently done by 60% of the households.

Carbon financing
In 2011, the NBP received its first Gold Standard carbon credits (VERs). This was the result of the first NBP monitoring report covering the period of May 2009 till August 2010. The average annual emission reduction per biodigester was determined at 4.2 ton CO2equivalent.

The workshop participants discussed the second monitoring report, which was produced in March 2012. In the afternoon session of the workshop the participants were informed on the NBP objectives for the second phase of the programme up to 2016. The planning is to reach 45,000 biodigesters by 2016, which will also mark the break-even point for carbon revenues and programme costs. The NBP carbon specialist gave detailed presentations on the methodology for Gold Standard Biodigester projects, emission reduction monitoring and what this implies for programme implementation.

It is very important for NBP to continue carbon finance activities to cover long-term financing of the programme costs. NBP has an agreement with the Hivos Climate Fund on the sale of Gold Standard VERs generated by the programme.