Botswana Biogas Project Learns from Experts in Ethiopia and Uganda

Nov 1, 2017

Reports advocating for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially Goal 7 on “Affordable and Clean Energy” highlights that efforts to encourage clean energy have resulted in more than 20% of global power being generated by renewable sources as of 2011. Still, one in five people lack access to electricity, and as the demand continues to rise there needs to be a substantial increase in the production of renewable energy across the world.

The Government of Botswana in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is implementing a project entitled “Promoting production and utilization of Biogas from Agro-waste in South-Eastern Botswana (Biogas Project)” which seeks to contribute to the energy needs of Botswana. In 2009, the country was only 46% energy self-sufficient. As such robust programmes needed to be implemented to augment coal-fired energy production through the use of renewable energy sources and thus the biogas project was born.

Botswana is blessed with high livestock numbers making it easy for agro-waste produced from livestock to be used to produce biogas. Biogas can then be used for cooking and lighting households. As Ethiopia and Uganda have an established Biogas programme, using the waste resource generated by their large numbers of animals, the UNDP Botswana Biogas Project visited the two countries to learn more on biogas production and utilization.

During the Botswana delegation’s visit to Ethiopia, Mr. Temesgen Tefera of the Ethiopian Biogas Programme outlined that to date Ethiopia had trained 346 construction workers (masons), developed training material, and developed a biogas baking stove for the traditional bread Injera“.  Currently we have installed 17,000 biogas digesters in various households and have plans to expand by installing biogas digesters in institutions and, also spread to 8 regions of the country”, said Mr. Temesgen Tefera.

The Environment and Climate Change Specialist in Uganda UNDP Country Office, Mr. Daniel Omodo McMondo applauded the Botswana delegation for having undertaken the benchmarking exercise before commencing with implementation.

He indicated that their office would also undertake the exercise as they were currently developing a biogas project which will be fueled by municipal waste, and the energy generated will be used to power the wastewater treatment facility in Kampala, Uganda.

Ms. Peace Kansiime, the Renewable Energy Advisor, for the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV), Uganda encouraged the delegates stating that “ You will need  work hard and keep motivated as working with communities has its challenges.” She explained that in their programme, stakeholders embraced the technology when grants and subsidies were available in the first phase but uptake reduced in the second phase when subsidies were no longer available.
The Botswana delegation had the opportunity to also visit the biogas digesters at various households. A community member who owns a biogas digester in Oromia District in Ethiopia highlighted that the biogas has really helped her as she uses the biogas for cooking and lighting her household. She indicated that her children are able to do their homework at night without any problem.

In Kampala, Uganda, the delegation had the opportunity to visit Mr Napangi and his wife who own a biogas digester in their homestead. “I have a problem with using biogas produced from combining human waste with waste from my cattle, not because I don’t know that there is no problem with the biogas produced but mainly because of my imagination. I have not come to terms with the use of human waste to produce cooking gas,” said Mr. Napangi who owns a 13cbm biogas digester in Kampala, Uganda. This was in response to a question from one of the delegates who wanted to know why Mr. Napangi did not connect his toilet to the biogas digester as other community members in Ethiopia have done.

Mr. Napangi indicated that he has a total of 10 zero grazed cows and he uses both the dung and urine from the cattle to feed the digester.The slurry produced from digestion is transported to his farm to be used as organic fertilizer. He indicated that the slurry has assisted in increasing harvest of the crops at his farm.The Botswana delegation also learnt that the local production of biogas stoves in Uganda has allowed the biogas sector to create further employment and improve the standards of living of the manufacturers. It has been realized that as long as the digester is correctly filled on a daily basis with the right amount of waste, the family is able to cook and light their households every day.

Having returned from the benchmarking mission, the UNDP Botswana Biogas Project, that has a mandate to facilitate low-carbon investments and public-private partnerships in the production and utilization of biogas from agro-waste, in now well equipped to implement the project.