Private sector engagement: sustainable business, sustainable energy


"I wanted to diversify and expand my biogas engagement. I have a long-term plan of manufacturing biogas appliances."

"Biogas is a life changing business" said Kalayu Gezai – one of the nine active masons in Hintalo Wajerat woreda 35 km from Mekele, Tigray regional state. Kalayu graduated with a certificate in masonry from a local TVET in 1994. Before being selected by the kebele in 2011 for biogas masonry training, he was working as house construction mason. The income from the construction was attractive but irregular. A sense of insecurity used to haunt the family.

Establishment of the National Biogas Programme of Ethiopia aimed at developing a commercially viable biogas sector in Tigray, Amhara, Oromia and SNNP regional states, employing a market-oriented approach. As a result, through the active involvement of masons in Hintalo Wajerat woreda in Tigray, 785 households have benefited from domestic energy, bio-slurry and improved household sanitation since 2009.

The masons provide information about the benefits of biogas technology, including financial incentives and benefits, installation and maintenance costs, operational issues, guarantee and aftersales service, support structure, quality assurance and durability so that potential biogas users can make informed investment decisions.

"I decided to engage in biogas as well as house construction activity simultaneously. In the beginning, I was depressed as people were reluctant to invest in the technology. However after considerable effort I succeeded in persuading a farmer to install a biogas digester. Seeing their neighbour cooking with biogas, the reaction was unexpected: seven people at a time showed their willingness to also buy the technology" said Kalayu.

Recruiting assistants, he delivered the biogas digester construction as per the agreed schedule. After this assignment he realised that he should continue hiring assistants to achieve effective promotion, demand collection, users' training and aftersales service provision.

Currently, he is working in five kebeles partnering with two promoters and three assistants assigned in each kebele. He also gives basic on-the-job training to other masons. The regional Biogas Programme recognizes them as formal masons, gives them refresher training from time-to-time and controls the quality of the biogas digesters through on-site examination.

Kalayu succeeded in establishing his own enterprise and generating sustainable income from constructing 230 bio-digesters since 2011. The regional Biogas Programme awarded him for constructing 121 bio digesters within one year and within two years he succeeded in making 300,000 birr (US 17,000) as total income.

"I wanted to diversify and expand my biogas engagement. I have a long-term plan of manufacturing biogas appliances" he said. He added that "I would like to investment the money instead of putting it in the bank. For the time being, I have opened a wood workshop. Saving enough money, I am planning to purchase machineries and tools necessary for manufacturing the biogas appliances."

SNV together with Tigray Biogas Programme and the regional Micro and Small Enterprises Development Agency, provided training to masons on basic business skills to widen their business thinking and increase their knowledge on business management, basic accounting and planning. SNV Ethiopia facilitated experience sharing and on-site coaching services to enable the private sector to disseminate quality biogas technology.

At this time, developing their own market segment, masons in Hintalo Wajerat woreda take care of promotion, construction, user’s training and aftersales independently.

"Customer handling is a basic business element. Our satisfied clients are our best promotion agents. Unless we have developed strong business relationship, the business will be affected.  It will affect the Biogas Programme too" Kalayu concluded