Tanzania: Rural communities turn to biogas to save trees

14 September 2014, Bukoba — RURAL communities in Karagwe District, Kagera Region are quickly embracing the use of biogas as a way of cutting the cost of fuel for cooking and lighting.

Karagwe District, with a population of 332,020 people has seen several households install biogas digesters to take advantage of abundant animal waste to produce clean energy. Biogas is a clean combustible, renewable gas produced from organic waste such as cow dung.

Biogas CycleIt has provided rural women with cleaner and a more sustainable resource of energy for cooking all year round. Power generated by biogas is also used to light homes, enabling school-going children to read after sunset. Above all, it has freed women from the hard task of looking for firewood allowing them time to embark on other economic activities.

And thanks to biogas fuel, rural kitchens are now free from smoke and ash, creating a cleaner domestic environment. Clement Nsherenguzi (79) a farmer in Kishao village of Bugene ward notes that because biogas is environmentally friendly, and relatively cheap, it would become the “fuel for the poor” in the near future.

“Everyday I take heaps of cow dung and mix them with water. The mixture is then channeled into the fermentation pits. The pit must be properly constructed, using concrete and cement to make sure they are airtight. The residue from cow dung is then used as fertilizer.

This is great because it has allowed us to grow vegetables,” he said. The family grows different types of vegetables in the backyard, in what is known as kitchen gardens. The refugee influx of 1994 had a negative impact on Kagera region’s economy.

The environment was severely impacted due to random tree-felling in search of poles for constructing makeshift camps and firewood for cooking. Some of the refugees entered the country carrying firearms which were used to commit robberies and kill innocent people.

One of the camps is Chabalisa in Bushangaro ward. The camp hosted over 200,000 refugees causing a big environmental damage to the surrounding villages. This has negatively affected the environment increasing carbon dioxide.

In a troubling new study that underscores the growing threat of global warming to the environment and international economy, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), said that heat-trapping carbon dioxide hit record levels in 2013.

The volume of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas that is emitted by industry, automobiles and other man-made activities, was 396.0 parts per million in 2013 – or 2.9 parts per million higher than in 2012. It was the largest year-overyear increase since 1984, when dependable global records first began.

Scientists have long warned about the dangers of an unabated buildup in the atmosphere of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other greenhouse gases in terms of mounting temperatures and the threats of rising sea levels, drought and powerful storms.

The latest figures from the WMO’s monitoring network “are considered particularly significant” because of unprecedented buildup or concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that are immune to natural dissipation.

In the past, about half of the human-generated pollution has been absorbed by the oceans and by terrestrial plants – a natural phenomenon that kept temperatures “from rising as quickly as they otherwise would.”

Oksana Tarasova, a scientist and chief of WMO’s Global Atmospheric Watch Programme said:”If the oceans and the biosphere cannot absorb as much carbon, the effect on the atmosphere could be much worse.”

The new carbon dioxide figures are considered highly reliable because they’re based on air samples collected near the North and South Poles, over the oceans and in other areas far from cities and other areas that generate high levels of carbon emissions.
*Meddy Mulisa – Tanzania Daily News

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