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Turning rubbish into cooking fuel

Instead of chopping down more trees in order to get firewood or charcoal you now have an option of digging into your rubbish heap to get a raw material for biogas instead of having smoke blow in your face whilst in the kitchen. 

The good news is that biogas technology has reached Tanzania and SIMGAS Tanzania has introduced a biogas service that can be used for cooking. The Chief Executive Officer of Simgas East Africa, Mr Mirik Castro at the official launch last week said, “This new product will be a saviour to most families especially in the urban areas which spend substantial portion of their incomes on cooking fuel” he said, adding,

“Most families in East Africa rely on wood fuel, charcoal and kerosene and the prices of these commodities have become unaffordable,” said Mr Castro.  The new technology is a self-contained biogas digester and stove system that can save up to 50 per cent of the cooking fuel expenses. On average households in Dar es Salaam spend a minimum of 2,000/- a day on cooking fuel.  
Biogas is perfectly suited it produces consistent, clean and renewable energy. 

There are almost zero costs after installing the technology as it uses leftovers and discarded peelings of fruits and vegetables.  
The company’s Business Development Manager, Mr Tayeb Noorbhai said the total costs for acquiring the biogas facility including the stove is 550,000/-. 

In mind of the cost of installation SimGas Tanzania as a long term plan is seeking to work with micro-finance partners to ensure that the biogas cooking technology is accessible to the neediest sections of the population. “We invite all micro-finance institutions to get in touch with us so that credit products are available in the market for domestic biogas,” Noorbhai added.

He said 25 city households are currently using the gas facility since it was introduced last year. The ambitious target is to have 1,000 clients before end of the year.  A larger biogas system for restaurants, schools and hotels will be available later this year; the company will introduce a rural biogas system tailor made for farmers with livestock.

To start off the whole process a plastic tank is filled with 75 litres of ‘bacteria’ upon and food waste is poured into the tank. An average of 3 kg of leftovers is needed to produce enough gas to be able to cook for an hour and a half. However, the rubbish has to be sorted out to remove food like citrus fruits like lemons and oranges that stop the gas production. After three days the gas is produced. 

According to Mr Noorbhai, unlike other types of gases, biogas is safe. Surprisingly the gas produced is odourless but if a stench is sensed the users are advised to add fresh water to activate the bacteria. The tank contains an outlet to discharge waste waters when the facility is full.

One of the first users of this new technology is Mr David Hiza a 45 year old business man who says the biogas in his household of eight people has greatly to cut down on costs used for cooking fuel.  He used to spend 40,000/- a month on charcoal. “This is a unique opportunity for all Tanzanians to save costs in cooking energy as well as reduce deforestation which has a negative impact on the climate,” he said.

The conversion of household waste into gas enhances waste management and provides households, institutions with a renewable clean source of cooking fuel.  The demand for cooking fuel has greatly increased due to population growth over the last ten years. Renewable energy technologies make indirect contributions to alleviating poverty by providing energy for cooking, heating and lighting.

Many developing countries have access to abundant renewable energy resources, including solar energy, wind power, geothermal energy and biomass but inadequate capital has been the major hindrance to develop them for the use in the society. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) household survey, more than 76 per cent of families use firewood as fuel for cooking.

In rural areas, firewood for cooking occupies about 91 per cent and charcoal nearly 8 per cent as while kerosene only a per cent. This represents a 59 per cent.  For example, gas is used by only 0.3 per cent of households, dung (0.1) and crop residual (0.1).
Two billion people in the world are estimated to use biomass fuels as their main source of domestic energy.

It is estimated that about 30 per cent of urban families and 90 per cent of rural households in developing countries rely on traditional biomass fuels as the major, or only, source of domestic energy. For example, statistics show that, Dar es Salaam alone sources about 70 per cent of its cooking fuel from charcoal compared to nearly 55 per cent spent in other regional centres thus endangering forests degradation in the country.

Users of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) are still few despite sharp rising demands that have jumped far beyond 2,500 from only 1,000 metric tonnes few months ago. So instead of cutting down more trees let’s make use of the rubbish we generate and keep our planet green.

IN recent years, Tanzania has witnessed improvement ...

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Author: SEBASTIAN MRINDOKO

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