Biogas project provides cheaper alternative for villagers

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Giyani - A Limpopo community project that turns cow dung into biogas has helped reduce high electricity fees for poor villagers.

The Mpfuneko (Solution) project in Gawula village near Giyani collects cow dung from local cattle owners and processes it into usable gas, which is sold to the locals at a low price.

"We are so happy with the project because even those who are unemployed are able to put away some money and pay for the biogas," said happy customer Josephine Simango.

Simango said the project has enabled her to cook for her children using a biogas stove instead of firewood, which is normally collected in snake-infested bushes.

Founding project manager Jotte van Ierland, who is originally from the Netherlands, said the technology was very affordable.

"We sign a contract with a minimum of three households that are in close proximity and allow them to use an unlimited supply of the gas for a collective amount of R125 per month," said van Ierland.

He said a biogas digester is installed that converts manure into energy and supplies all three households with biogas via a pipeline. The biogas digester heats up the cow dung to a certain degree, at which point it starts producing gas.

The project was mainly suited to Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Gauteng, which reach high temperatures during summer.

The project was initiated in 2007 and aimed at promoting socio-economic development in rural areas.

"Cattle owners benefit by contributing cow dung in return for a 25% share in the project. The project also provides employment and skills that locals need to empower themselves," van Ierland said.

Ten people were employed in the project so far. However, the future of the project is uncertain.

"We only have one church in the Netherlands sponsoring the project. Their sponsorship contract lapses next month and if we don't get another sponsor we might be in trouble," said van Ierland, adding that even if the project came to an end, he would continue living in South Africa as he planned to register for a PhD in biogas technology. - BuaNews