Transforming lives through rollout of small-scale biogas digesters

Posted September 24, 2020

Feeding the digester with cow dug

Biogas cooker

Construction of a 6m3 biogas digester

Excavation of a 30m3 biogas digester in Mogobane, Southern District

The Government of Botswana (GoB) in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are implementing a project titled “Promoting production and utilization of Biogas from Agro-waste in South-Eastern Botswana (Biogas Project)”. The Biogas Project seeks to facilitate low-carbon investments in the production and utilization of biogas from agro-waste in the districts of South-eastern Botswana. The project aims to assist Government of Botswana through three project components:

  1. Institutional strengthening and capacity development;
  2. Facilitation and establishment of biogas plants; and
  3. Setting up of utilization and knowledge platforms.

To meet the above components, the project through the Department of Energy (DOE) is currently in the process of constructing and implementing the 200 small scale biogas digesters in the South-Eastern part of Botswana to provide a sustainable solution to these problems. By the end of the project more than 200 households will be provided with their own biogas plant to utilize the free and sustainable energy contained in their animals’ excrement. The biogas is used for cooking, household lighting and water boiling. Water is often boiled as a purification measure, preventing the spread of waterborne diseases.

A call for applications was made for the potential beneficiaries to apply and benefit from the project through part-financing the construction of the small-scale underground fixed dome biogas digesters where by the beneficiary purchase their own materials as per the Bill Of Quantities designed and provided by the project and the Biogas-project contribute by paying for construction labour.

To date 28 small-scale biogas digesters has commenced construction since July 1st, 2020 and five (5) digesters have since been completed and fed, undergoing retention time of minimum thirty (30) days for the digesters to begin biogas production for utilization.

The biogas digesters will primarily be utilized to meet residential energy requirement mainly for cooking and space heating. This applicable at farms, residential homes and the SMEs. The main feedstock being used is cow-dung and chicken droppings.

The project has trained and certified 33 masons to undertake the construction of the 200 digesters of which 23 are male and 10 are female. The designs of all different completed and under construction digesters sizes have been created/designed by key project partner being Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI) and they are all certified and approved for utilization. For the project’s sustainability and continuity beyond UNDP technical support and for the roll-out throughout the country, the project trained fifteen (15) trainer of trainers to facilitate the construction and implementation of the small-scale biogas digesters through the country.

One of the beneficiaries of the project, Ms. Phatsimo Mmifinyana (44) has installed a 10 cubic meter (10m3) biogas digester at her farm in Nkoyaphiri, Kweneng District which is fed by the dung from cows in the nearby kraal, chicken droppings and piggery waste. The digester produces 2.0 to 2.3 cubic meters of gas a day providing enough energy for cooking, lighting and heating the poultry house during cold seasons.

Phatsimo feeding her digester with cow-dung

“I am excited to have installed this biogas technology in farm and mostly I have read about it and realized it could be a solution to my energy needs in my farm. When the opportunity came through the UNDP to apply to be a beneficiary, I was happy to do so. I bought the materials as per the bill of quantities I was provided with and the Team from Depart of Energy came to inspect, and they assigned to me a mason construct the digester for me. At a medium scale level, I envision our farm’s electrical system operating through the biogas plant. My chickens – broilers and layers – stand to benefit the most from the biogas plant’s lighting and heating since are currently living off-grid. I would like to encourage a lot of Batswana out there to try this technology as it has the potential to be an immediate solution to our energy needs especially in the farms where electricity connection can be challenging and collection of firewood can dangerous in the bush.”- Ms. Phatsimo Mmifinyana, beneficiary