Producing 'Miracles' from waste : Cow dung power a real gas

Roughly 100km from Durban’s city centre, far removed from the tireless debate and gnashing of teeth that will be the UN climate talks, beneath her tin roof a mother of a household of nine in rural Willowforntein need no arm twisting to remain committed to reducing emission.

As part of a gender renewable energy pilot project, fifty-five-year-old Ernestina Chamane was introduced to her “miracle” last year harnessing the power of cow dung to fire her tow-plate stove.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Green Network partnered to have what is called a bio-digester fitted outside Chamane’s home. Fifty thousand dollars in funding was provided through GEF’s small grants programme, with the implementation undertaken by the UNDP and the Green Network.

Once a day Chamane deposits dung from 12 cattle into the mixing day on one end of a 10m tube along with water, allowing for the production of bacteria and the biogas which is then piped directly into a modified low-pressure gas stove in her kitchen. By her own admission, Chamane cooks and reheats food several times a day, but never completely managing to dplete the supply of biogas.

Not only dose R50 worth of electricity now tide Chamane over for more than 10 days, but she insisted that the slurry to emerge at the tail-end of the digester is an excellent fertiliser for her crops.

So much has the slurry improve the growth of spinach, carrots and beans that Chamane gives away surplus produce to member of her community.

The UNDP is punting the project as an excellent example of how local initiative can reduce dependence on the grid, and therefore the related production of greenhouse emissions through the burning of fossil fuels.

At the moment, seven local women are trained to construct the bio-digesters, with the aim of rolling them out to the broader community.

The biogas produced from the dung is an excellent substitute for charcoal and firewood commonly used in poorer communities, thereby reducing deforestation.

According to the UNDP, biogas production may also assist in the reduction of respiratory problems associated with household fires, and food poisoning from the use of untreated manure and fertiliser. The UNDP’s Agostinho Zacarias, says environmental preservation and sustainability is an essential foundation for development and poverty alleviation, and key to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

“We hope that this pilot project can be the beginning of much bigger things to come in the creation of economically and environmentally sustainable peri-urban and rural developments,” he adds.

THE extension of the Kyoto Protocol is the main hope of South Africa and most developing nations at the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) climate change summit in Durban.

Alf Wills,  South Africa’s lead climate change negotiator ,told business leaders in Joburg ahead of the Durban conference the Kyolo Protocol was the only instrument in which all rules associated with accounting for carbon emissions were agreed and it was in the country’s interest to preserve those rules.


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