Biogas Project in Tanzania

In rural Tanzania 30 million people (80% of the population) cook over an open fire, requiring wood or charcoal as fuel. This figure translates to approximately 30 million people. Cooking over an open fire is inefficient and causes several issues including deforestation, smoke in the house and health issues. Tanzanian women often need to travel great distances to collect wood, an already scarce commodity. This poses a threat to their safety and impacts on their physical wellbeing as they carry wood on their backs for hours at a time.

Background

Hivos, in partnership with SNV Netherlands, introduced bio-digesters to Africa several years ago with the ‘Africa Biogas Partnership Programme’ (ABPP). The project uses the expertise gained from bio-digester projects in Asia to stimulate the transition to biogas as a clean energy alterantive to charcoal and wood. The project stimulates the transition from cooking over an open fire using charcoal and wood, to the use of biogas as a non-harmful alternative. After being introduced in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, the programme has now been started in Tanzania, where rural farmers generally have a small amount of livestock in addition to their agricultural holding. While cooking over an open fire is strongly embedded in the culture and family life of Tanzanians, the local campaign educated communities on the benefits of biogas in order to make the switch to this cleaner, more efficient alternative

The Solution

The biogas technology provides farming families with clean fuel for cooking. The bio-digester also produces fertile organic slurry (a bi-product) that can be used as fertiliser on the farm. The digesters offer the duel benefit of saving on fuel costs and reducing the workload of collecting firewood. In addition, biogas is a replacement for the use of scarce firewood, reducing deforestation. The gas can also be used for lighting. Many families in Tanzania use kerosene lanterns for light, or face having no light in the evenings.

More than 12,000 families in Tanzania use biogas produced from cattle manure, which has shown positive results in terms of reducing deforestation as families no longer rely on wood to fuel fires. There has also been a reduction on the use of charcoal, kerosene and fossil fuel-based fertilisers due to the introduction of more environmentally friendly cooking means. The money saved by households that have adapted to this technology allows families to invest in education, food and agricultural activities on their own farms.

In addition, there is a new industry sector for biogas operators and bricklayers. Women from the local communities have indicated that cooking with gas is much faster, while farmers state that the ‘slurry’ is a good fertiliser for rice and vegetables. And of course, there is a considerable reduction in carbon emissions.

The Partnership

The African Biogas Partner Programme is run by Hivos and supported by SNV, a Dutch development organisation. It was launched with various subsidies, with the aim of making the project self-supporting over a number of years using carbon financing. In June 2015, the Hivos Climate Fund was able to have the project officially certified by the Gold Standard developed by the WWF. The biogas programme will now be made possible by the sale of these carbon credits. This guarantees sustainable progress and the continuation of the project and the employment it generates.

Key SDGs impacted

Benefits:

Environment
  • One biogas installation:
    • Saves an average of 8.5 tonnes of CO2 and 4,667 kg of wood per year
    • Provides clean fuel
    • Improves the living conditions on the farms
    • Saves more than 1,500 hectares of forest

Social and Health

  • Biogas lanterns provide more light in the house
  • Women save time because they no longer have to collect wood and because they can cook faster
  • Biogas causes 100% less indoor air pollution
  • Less chance of pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer
  • Improved hygiene because of the availability of toilets
Economic
  • Cost savings on wood, charcoal and fertiliser
  • 91 permanent jobs created locally and about 300 bricklayers have regular work building bio-digesters
  • Improves agriculture through the use of the fertile organic “slurry”
  • Less depletion of the land because less artificial fertiliser is used
  • More time for women to take on paid work