Renewable Energy xxx (2012) 1e5

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SNV supported domestic biogas programmes in Asia and Africa
Prakash C. Ghimire*
Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV), Thimphu, Bhutan

a b s t r a c t
Keywords: SNV Biogas plant Biogas programme Energy

SNV1 is supporting the implementation of market-based domestic biogas programmes in different countries in Asia and Africa with a view to establish a commercially viable biogas sector. Till the end of 2009, some 300,000 fixed-dome biogas plants of sizes ranging from 4 m3 to 15 m3 have been installed. These plants produce about 600,000 m3 of biogas each day which supplements more than 3000 tonnes of fuel wood. Benefits of biogas plants have positive impacts on basic livelihood indicators as well as rural economic development. The key to success has been the multi-stakeholder sector development approach in optimising organisational and institutional capacities within national contexts. This paper highlights approaches, achievements, lessons learnt and other relevant aspects of domestic biogas programmes in developing countries. Ó 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction Worldwide, nearly 2.5 billion people rely on traditional biomass as their primary sources of energy, especially for cooking; and nearly 1.5 billion people do not have access to electricity [3]. Without scaling up the availability and accessibility of affordable and sustainable energy services, another 1.4 billion people will be at risk of being left without modern energy [4]. Realising the fact that lack of access to affordable and sustainable sources of energy is a fundamental hindrance to human, social and economic development, SNV has been supporting renewable energy initiatives, especially domestic biogas programmes, in various Asian and African countries for more than 20 years. The choice for renewable energy technologies as a thematic sector within SNV has been made as it helps in enhancing rural livelihoods by offering a clean alternative energy source and economic benefits to the users. SNV started supporting biogas activities in Nepal in 1989 and since 1992 Biogas Support Programme (BSP) started with a view to develop a commercial biogas sector in the country that can be sustained by capable stakeholders and financed without any Official Development Assistance. Till the end of 2009, number of biogas plants installed under the framework of BSP reached 205,762. The success of BSP in Nepal encouraged SNV to support a national biogas programme in Vietnam in 2003 and subsequently similar programmes in other Asian countries, namely, Bangladesh, Cambodia,

Lao PDR (2006), Pakistan and Indonesia (2009). In Africa, keeping in view the substantial technical potential of about 18.5 million households [6], currently, under different partnerships, SNV is active in the biogas sector in nine African countries. National programmes have been started in Rwanda (2007), Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya (2008), Burkina Faso and Cameroon (2009). The programmes in Senegal and Benin have taken off recently. Together, these programmes in Africa aim to support construction of well over 70,000 domestic biogas installations by the end of 2013 [5]. 2. The achievements and benefits Since 1992, a total of 299,908 biogas plants have been installed under the framework of SNV supported national biogas programmes in Asia and Africa (Table 1) which have helped to improve quality of life of about two million people directly. In 2009, a total of 53,617 biogas plants were installed through the country programmes which is almost 50% more than that installed in 2008 (36,411 biogas plants). The largest numbers are realised by the programmes in Nepal and Vietnam. Compared to Asian countries, biogas development in Africa has been pretty modest so far because of various challenges, especially, the high investment costs, limited access to credit facilities, insufficient awareness raising activities and significantly lower purchasing power of potential households. These 299,908 biogas plants installed in 14 counties till the end of 2009 produce more than 600,000 m3 of biogas per day which is equivalent to 3000 tones of fuel wood or 360 Kiloliters of Kerosene or 240 Ton of LPG or 900 Megawatt-hour of electricity. Biogas plants provide multiple benefits at different levels. These benefits are realised differently in different countries, and can be

* Corresponding author. Tel.: þ975 2 332040, þ975 171 47147 (Cell); fax: þ975 2 322649. E-mail addresses:, 1 Netherlands Development Organisation. 0960-1481/$ e see front matter Ó 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.renene.2012.01.058

Please cite this article in press as: Ghimire PC, SNV supported domestic biogas programmes in Asia and Africa, Renewable Energy (2012), doi:10.1016/j.renene.2012.01.058

2 Table 1 Number of biogas plants installed [2]. Country Programme Took off in No. of biogas plants installed in 2008

P.C. Ghimire / Renewable Energy xxx (2012) 1e5

No. of biogas plants installed in 2009

Cumulative number of biogas plants installed up to 2009 205,762 75,820 10,019 6402 1020 50 100

Asia Nepal Vietnam Bangladesh Cambodia Lao PDR Indonesia Pakistan Africa Rwanda Ethiopia Kenya Tanzania Uganda Burkina Faso Cameroon Total

1992 2003 2006 2006 2006 2009 2009

14,002 17,012 2648 2340 188 e e

18,902 25,764 5050 2616 722 50 100

2007 2008 2008 2008 2008 2009 2009

120 98 e 3 e e e 36,411

213 30 3 103 40 1 23 53,617

434 128 3 106 40 1 23 299,908

convenient because it does not produce toxic fumes that cause smoke-borne diseases such as respiratory ailment, headaches, coughing, dizziness and eye problems. The use of biogas reduces the hardship involved in collection of firewood, and it encourages better management of dung and night-soil. An increasing number of households are deciding to attach household latrines with biogas plants, which has helped to improve standards of hygiene and sewage management. Women have developed good hygiene habits in using the latrines connected with biogas plants, which they feel are safe, sanitary and convenient, instead of walking to the fields and forests. Once biogas plant is operational, girls are no longer needed at home to assist with household chores, particularly with fetching firewood. This enables them to attend or continue school education. Biogas lamps (Fig. 2) have helped the children in having comfortable and longer hours of reading. More and more women are participating in biogas related training programmes. There are considerable number of female masons (Fig. 4) who are involved in construction and supervision of biogas plants. Study findings have revealed that female biogas masons are preferred over their male counterparts by the people because of their hard works and sincerity. 3. The technology

classified according to their impacts on gender, employment, environment, energy, agriculture, health and sanitation. Domestic biogas plants contribute to sustainable development and reaching the UN Millennium Development Goals. Table 2 provides an overview of main benefits of an average biogas plant realised through the Biogas Support Programme (BSP) in Nepal. The success of a biogas programme cannot be measured solely in terms of the numbers of biogas plants installed; other relevant indicators include whether and to what extent biogas technology is contributing to the quality of life of men, women and children. One of the long-term objectives of biogas programmes is to improve hygiene and health conditions of rural population, especially of women. As most of the biogas related works, such as cooking, collection of cooking fuel, cleaning of cooking pots, management of cattle dung and collection of water is done by women, installation of biogas plants effects them directly. Study findings relating to the use of biogas plant show a significant improvement of the livelihoods of women and children by reducing their workload by as high as 3 h per day which has enabled them to undertake more productive farm and off-farm activities. Most women appreciate the increase in comfort arising from the use of biogas (Fig. 2). Cooking on biogas is healthier and more

Table 2 Benefits of biogas plant. Reduction of workload (especially women) Improvement of sanitation and health 1100 h per year (3 h per day) eno indoor pollution eattachment of toilets to the biogas plant (for 72% of all plants) eimproved dung management eno black soot in the house 2000 kg per year 32 L per year 4900 kg of CO2 equivalent per year (as per 2005 CDM rules) eavailability of agricultural residue (1000 kg/year) and dried dung (500 kg per year) originally used for cooking esaving of chemical fertiliser (39 kg N, 19 kg P and 39 kg K per year)

Saving of firewood Saving of kerosene Reduction of emission Increase of agricultural production

Domestic biogas plant, a simple structure constructed under the ground, converts animal dung and human excrement at household level into small but valuable quantity of biogas, mainly composed of methane (60e70%) and carbon dioxide (30e40%). Methane is a combustible gas produced by anaerobic fermentation of organic materials by the action of micro-bacteria. It is odourless gas and burns with a clear blue flame without smoke. The Higher (Gross) and Lower (Net) Heating Values of biogas consisting of 60% of methane and 40% of CO2 are 5340 kcal/m3 and 4800 kcal/m3 respectively.2 This ‘biogas’ can be effectively used in simple gas stoves for cooking and in lamps for lighting. The primary end use application of biogas is cooking; however, especially in remote rural areas where electrification does not exist, farmers use biogas for illumination too. The residue of the process, bioslurry, can be easily collected and used as a potent organic fertiliser to enhance agricultural productivity (Fig. 3). A minimum of 20 kg of cattle dung is required on a daily basis to operate a smallest size of biogas plant. On average, farmers keeping a minimum of three heads of stall-fed cattle or six adult pigs can generate sufficient biogas to meet daily basic cooking and lighting needs. Fixed dome biogas plants (Fig. 1 and Fig. 5), despite their high initial investment, are the design of choice for rural households because of their reliability, low maintenance requirement and long lifetime. SNV has initiated and executed an elaborate, participatory process to select, modify or design appropriate domestic biogas design. Biogas plants of sizes ranging from 4 m3 to 15 m3 and producing 1000e3500 L of biogas per day are being disseminated. Investment costs of quality biogas plants vary between Euro 300 and 600 in Asian countries and Euro 500 to 1000 in African countries, depending on plant size, location of construction, availability and accessibility of construction materials, labour-wages, and enduse applications. The smallest size of 4 m3 capacity, that produces biogas in the range of 800e1600 L per day depending upon the loading rate, is big enough to fulfil need of cooking fuel of a small family of 4e5 members. The biogas technology is a proven and established technology in many parts of the globe, especially Asia. Several countries in Asia


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Facilitating through participatory and context specific preparation: Proper prevention prevents poor performance.  Establishing a sustainable sector as the ultimate long term objective: Haste makes waster.  Interlinking impact and capacity development targets: It makes two to tango.  Promoting and strengthening a market-oriented approach: The customer is always right.  Attributing sector functions to multiple stakeholders: Let the cobbler stick to his last. Building viable domestic biogas programmes evolves around three important aspects: programmatic sustainability, technical sustainability, and financial sustainability. Aiming for programmatic sustainability, SNV follows an integrated approach to optimise institutional arrangements and to strengthen the capacities of all actors in the sector. Crucial in this approach is the role of the private sector in the primary process of the programme. SNV aims to involve a maximum of organisational and institutional capacities already available in the country and to strengthen these capacities through local capacity building organisations. Hence, SNV does not implement activities directly, limiting its permanent deployment of manpower to a limited number of biogas advisers per programme. Technical sustainability is pursued in biogas programmes, and by introducing a rigorous, research and development as well as quality management component to the programme, it helps to ensure that supply-side actors remain fully accountable to their customers. Quality management does not limit itself to direct “technical” aspects only, but includes a promotional message, user satisfaction, and after-sales service. Linking investment rebate with quality provides programmes with the necessary leverage on service quality. The financial sustainability of large-scale domestic biogas programmes is more complex to achieve, foremost requiring

Fig. 1. Construction of a biogas plant.

have embarked on large-scale programmes on domestic biogas like China (about 35 million units by 2009), India (about 4.5 million units by 2009), Nepal (more than 215,000 units by 2009) and Vietnam (more than 80,000 units by 2009). 4. The approach Large-scale domestic biogas programmes require a wide range of functions (Fig. 6) to be executed in a comprehensive and coordinated manner. To ensure effective implementation of all these functions, SNV adheres to the following five interrelated features while implementing domestic biogas programmes in the developing countries [1]:

Fig. 2. Biogas applications.

Fig. 3. Use of bioslurry.

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P.C. Ghimire / Renewable Energy xxx (2012) 1e5

Fig. 4. Female masons constructing biogas plants in Nepal.    

Fig. 5. A typical biogas plant design. 

national governments to contribute to the costs. Carbon benefits need to become a sustainable source of income for biogas sectors. 5. The lessons A number of important lessons, as summarised below, are learnt regarding implementation of biogas programmes with the experiences in various Asian and African countries.  Understanding end-user/market, identifying unique selling points and designing a product that meets the needs and addresses the concerns is important for speedy promotion.  Identifying most appropriate and cost-effective design for the product with active participation of national stakeholders  

before launching a wide-scale dissemination program ensures ownership. Enforcing solid design, quality and service criteria that ensure reliable and cost-effective operation of installed plants guarantee long term functioning of the end product. Identifying key institutional players, assisting in strengthening capacity of these players to effectively carry out their roles, and providing technical and management support to all key players create synergy. Creating a multi-stakeholder platform on the basis of publicprivate partnership for programme implementation ensures ownership and fosters accountability. Securing commitment and support of financial institutions to work in close partnership for the dissemination and financing of the product; and identifying financial incentives needed to stimulate the market and attract qualified buyers are keys to successful up-scaling. Designing and applying financial incentives in a uniform, transparent and easy to administer manner is vital to ensure that financial incentives reach the target groups. Instituting co-ordinating committees to ensure co-operation and partnership of stakeholders helps in effective programme management. Building a platform at national and regional levels for information exchange and promotion of regional cooperation particularly in the context of the development of rural economy, especially in terms of technology development/exchange/ transfer, product demonstration and human resources development helps in sustainable biogas development.

In addition to the general points that are listed above, one of the most important achievements is the sense of ownership in the programme that the key stakeholders appear to display when discussing their roles. This single achievement will be a key factor in the overall success of any biogas programmes. 6. The concerns and challenges The challenges ahead are manifold. The biogas practice will definitely require maximum efforts to achieve up-scaling targets and solve capacity constraints. There are some general issues and concerns on national level biogas promotion in relation to sustainability and mainstreaming renewable energy programme. They are:  In countries where renewable energy policy is lacking, the wide scale dissemination of biogas is difficult. Policy should guide the stakeholders and suppliers to maintain quality of product and services. Renewable energy needs to come into Government main streaming agenda. Government should provide active

Fig. 6. Programme functions.

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promotion and facilities such as tax and custom exemption, laws and other supports to promote biogas technology. It is essential to establish separate autonomous renewable energy apex organization at national level to coordinate and facilitate the stakeholders. In absence of such organization, renewable energy including biogas cannot take a place of national programme. Private sector has a key role to play in promoting renewable energy and making the biogas sector commercially sustainable and market oriented. The national policy should be developed in such a way that it attracts more private companies to participate in the biogas sector. Access of micro credit makes biogas technology more affordable to poor people. Subsidy can be a temporary solution but to capture the bigger market easy access to credit is essential. Biogas is seen as a very potential project for generating carbon revenues. Nepal and Cambodia have already started obtaining carbon revenues from its biogas programme and other countries like Bangladesh, Vietnam and Rwanda are in process of obtaining it. Carbon fund can be a viable and sustainable source of funds to continue the programme in longer term, and therefore needs attention right from the beginning. 

maintaining biogas system standards for quality, performance and maintenance services in an expanding market  reducing the amount and eventually phasing out the need for financial subsidies  ensuring that public private partnership works well amidst different, sometimes conflicting, interests of the stakeholders  competing with ad hoc programmes that have no long term goal and vision but supported with a view to gain political benefits  motivating potential farmers who have negative mine set up towards the technology because of the failure of biogas plants installed in the past 7. Conclusion With nearly two decades of involvement in domestic biogas SNV has demonstrated with its approach that dissemination of biogas is not a technology driven affair. It has learned that more “abstract” development objectives (capacity building, governance, integrated development) can be served in a tangible way through product dissemination. It has also realised that involvement in activities with tangible results is crucial, both for internal as well as external justification. More importantly, it has learned that establishing commercially viable biogas sectors in developing countries is not a “shortterm” activity but rather has a time horizon of 10 years or more. References

The acceleration of biogas dissemination in Asian and African countries may face a number of significant challenges if it is to meet its principal objectives. The key program challenges include:  accelerating market demand to finally reach the anticipated target, the people at the lower strata in the socio-economic pyramid  reducing the existing higher costs of installation of robust fixed-dome biogas designs without compromising on quality and performance and make it more affordable to the people  strengthening institutional capabilities of the stakeholders  strengthening financial and managerial viability of the private sector biogas producers to ensure a sufficiently robust supply base

[1] SNV. Building viable domestic biogas programmes: success factors in sector development; 2009. October 2009. [2] SNV. Domestic biogas Newsletter. 2; 2010. January 2010. [3] Yumkella KK, Srivastava L. Energy for all. Making it; 2010. 2, April 2010 Issue, pp 22e29. [4] Modi V, McDade S, Lallement D, Saghir J. Energy services for millennium development goals, achieving MGDs. Millennium project, UNDP, World Bank and ESMAP; 2005. [5] Wim van Nes J, Nhete TD. Biogas for a better life e An African initiatives. Renewable Energy World; July-August 2007:84e7. [6] Heegde Felix ter, Sonder Kai. Domestic biogas in Africa: a first assessment of the potential and need; 2007. May 2007.

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