“Nothing to waste, nothing to throw away, I love my cows all the more!” is what 68–year-old John Muyundike from Uganda’s Jinja District has been telling everyone since he started using biogas for cooking and lighting. For him, owning a bio-digester means he is benefitting from the cheapest and safest source of energy he has used so far: biogas.
John had heard about biogas before, but did not trust the ready-made “balloon” model, which he considered weak and not durable. After an encounter with a fellow biogas user, he decided to purchase the necessary materials and build his own.
Prior to owning a biogas plant, his kitchen was detached from the main house because the fuels used could be dangerous. Today, he boasts of a safe in-house kitchen fuelled by biogas, so also free from smoke. “My wife no longer smells of smoke and every member of my family now enjoys cooking. Secondly, I love my cows more and have more determination to feed them well so they give me enough dung for the bio-slurry,” he said.
Having shifted the kitchen to the main house, he noticed the biogas lamp was generating more energy than he needed, so he moved it to the chicken coop to provide heat for his 500 chicks. Today, his breeder can handle 1000 chicks.
Following a dry spell in 2013, John’s small plot of land virtually had no grass left to feed his cows. After some trial and error, he chose to feed them “pre-digested” rice brand – rice brand mixed with the right quantities of cotton seed cake, molasses, water and phosphorous and kept in an airtight container for three days. Since then, the cows have once again produced enough milk for the family enterprise and plenty of manure for their biogas plant.
Curious about other ways to benefit from owning a bio-digester, John followed a biogas extension training that showed him how to mix maize brand with bioslurry to feed pigs. “When you pre-digest the feeds, the pigs eat very well and they get a balanced diet as compared to ordinary feeds,’’ he explained. His piggery enterprise earns him up to 2,000 USD (equivalent to UGX 7,000,000) in a good year.
With one rural household bio-digester, John has basically created a value chain between his three home-based enterprises. “The cows, chicken and pigs provide the needed dung to feed the bio-digester. Bioslurry and refined chicken droppings are key components in the pre-digested pig feeds, and the bio-digester has not only provided clean fuel for cooking but also light and warmth in the chicken breeder,” he said, very satisfied with his biogas choices.
Since 2009, Hivos East Africa’s Africa Biogas Partnership Programme (ABPP) has supported smallholder farmers like John to gain access to a sustainable source of clean energy: biogas. Besides the multiple benefits we see in stories like John’s, biogas for clean cooking also spares hundreds of thousands of women and children from exposure to indoor air pollution, which causes some 4.3 million premature deaths annually according to the WHO. The programme has so far constructed over 55,000 household bio-digesters in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.